Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Area health officials hope 'worst is behind us' for hard-hitting flu season

Doctors visits for the flu down for second week in a row, CDC says America's Nightmare Flu Season Is Finally Coming to an End
| 01 March, 2018, 13:36

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is already taking steps to improve the flu vaccine's effectiveness for the next flu season, agency Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, wrote in a February 26 statement.

Numerous flu-related deaths reported this flu season were caused by pneumonia, Kao said.

Many of this year's flu cases can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of the vaccine now being used; the CDC points out that it is only 25 percent effective against the H3N2 virus, this year's most widespread form of the flu.

The agency is considering whether there should be greater investment in alternative processes, such as cell-based or recombinant approaches to vaccine development. That's because the vaccine is more effective against other types of the flu that are also now circulating.

Getting the flu vaccine every year and encouraging others to do the same is the "single most important thing" anyone can do to minimize the impact of influenza, Schaffner said.

Lara Anton with the Texas Department of State Health Services says the number of people going to the Doctor with flu symptoms is down over the last couple of weeks, but it's still higher than it has been at the peak of the two previous outbreaks. In 2014-15, the vaccine effectiveness was less than 20 percent, but the shot was still estimated to prevent between 11,000 and 144,000 hospitalizations and between 300 to 4,000 deaths, according to the CDC. "The vaccine is never ideal, but is does appear to still have some protectiveness to it".

Harting has also noticed a shift in the type of strain, trending more toward Influenza B, and "that's what we typically tend to see in the spring parts of the outbreak".

The second shot may be necessary if parents have a child under eight-years-old who got vaccinated for the first time this season. And why have vaccines in prior seasons when H3N2 circulated, also delivered reduced protection against this particular flu strain?


Some theories: Maybe protection against H3N2 requires "a higher amount of H3N2 antigen to elicit a proper immune response", compared to that needed against other strains, Gottlieb said. "The flu is extremely unpredictable, so it's hard to say, yeah, this is it".

In the meantime, this flu season isn't over yet, though CDC data shows a decline in visits to doctor's offices and outpatient clinics.

"We're hopeful if that continues we're past the worst part", said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.

"Pneumonia is a very common secondary infection that people get after having had the flu and you can only test for flu for a very short period of time", Anton said.

And researchers are working to make a better flu shot, said Meda Higa, assistant professor of biology at York College.

"We're planning for the flu all year", Powell said.

Influenza may cause fever, cough, runny nose, body aches and fatigue, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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