As Christmas draws near, so does the flu season. Experts believe that the most exposed U.S areas are the Miwest, Bay Area and the South. As no one wants to risk being caught sick during holiday season, people are advised to visit their nearest hospital and get their annual flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning about a stronger flu season this year, stating that its peak might occur earlier than previous years. Flu is at its peak usually around February. The last two winters suffered a change in influenza behavior, as the disease had already peaked by January.
It is possible for the vaccine to be less efficient this time. Infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Dr. Jonathan Blum stated that there is no certain way of determining this until the flu season is already over. Only at the end of the infectious period can experts begin gathering information regarding flu cases and their development.
CDC officials stated that the flu is already spreading across the country and that, according to a report released on Friday, flu cases were identified in 29 states. Specialists predict this might be a bad influenza season due to the fact that this year’s vaccine does not cover the dominant strain identified in almost two thirds of recent tests.
The dominant strain was made public on Dec. 6 by the CDC. It was reported that the main circulating virus was Influenza virus Type A, subtype H3N2, usually affecting pregnant women, and the elderly and young children. They are more vulnerable “because their immune systems are different from the normal, healthy adult,” explained Kelly Moore, Tennessee Immunization Program Director, MD, MPH. She also advised everyone over the age of six months who haven’t gotten their flu shots already, to do it.
Half of H3N2 strains are starting to develop “genetic drifts”. The Influenza virus mutations vary from minor to significant. Because of this “genetic drift”, this year’s vaccine is not entirely efficient. Up until now, there is no certain way of knowing how vulnerable people will remain after taking the shot.
Regarding this year’s flu season, Dr. Blum declared:
“This year, we have potential for a severe flu season. But whether it will prove to be a bigger clinical problem than usual, only time will tell. We have to be prepared for a bad flu season every year.”
Up until now however, officials have not announced an abnormally high number of hospitalizations or deaths.
Image Source: CoPatient
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