The flu is spreading rapidly this year, with a possible severe season –

The flu is spreading rapidly this year, with a possible severe season


This year's flu season has started fast and early indications suggest it may be more serious than the previous season.

Four states currently have widespread influenza activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last winter there was none at this time.

And it can spread quickly. Dr. William Schaffner, who is involved in the CDC flu surveillance network in Tennessee, has noticed cases of influenza that have increased "dramatically" in the past week.

Even worse, it appears that the dominant strain will be H3N2, which can lead to more serious disease, said Schaffner, a specialist in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Related: Here's a reason why flu vaccines are so

To get an idea of ​​what the flu season will be like in the US. UU., Scientists like Schaffner observe what happens in Australia, which experiences winter and flu while Americans are having summer. In the summer of 2017, influenza was diagnosed in more Australians than in the previous season, 168,337 against 91,000, with predominant H3N2.

How effective is the 2017 flu vaccine?

Unfortunately, the flu vaccine in Australia, which is the same available in the fall and winter in the United States, was only 10 percent effective in preventing diseases caused by H3N2.

"Typically in years when the predominant strain is H3N2, there are more hospitalizations, more serious illnesses and people tend to get sicker," said Dr. Michael Ison, professor of infectious diseases and organ transplantation at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern University. Medicine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suspects that the vaccine will not work better in the United States

"We may experience a low efficacy of the vaccine against influenza A (H3N2) viruses and a relatively serious influenza season if they predominate, "Fauci and his colleagues wrote in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, although vaccinated people can still get sick, they usually get a less severe and less dangerous form of disease.

Related: Most children who died of influenza were not vaccinated, according to a study

In addition, the vaccine protects against other strains of influenza.

"Protection from others is much greater, from 50 to 70 percent," Schaffner said.

Even if the flu vaccine has only a 10 percent effect against H3N2, the flu vaccine is especially important for adults 50 and older. Because the influenza virus triggers an inflammatory response in the body, in the two to eight weeks after recovery, older adults have a three to five times greater risk of having a heart attack and a risk two or three times greater than having a stroke, said Schaffner.

It is known that H3N2 causes a much more substantial inflammatory response than some of the other strains.

Related: The death of the adolescent athlete is a reminder that the flu can kill anyone

"We believe that the influenza virus attacks the throat, the bronchi and the lungs," he explained. . "But it affects the whole body." It can involve blood vessels, particularly those that go to the heart and brain. If they are inflamed they can get stuck and that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. "

No matter how imperfect the flu vaccines are," current influenza vaccines remain a valuable public health tool, and it is always better to get vaccinated, "Fauci and his colleagues wrote in the Journal.

The CDC estimates that the flu vaccine prevented 40,000 deaths in the United States between the 2005-2006 and 2013-2014 seasons.

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