The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that this season’s flu might become severe with several hospitalizations and deaths reported across 36 US states. This season’s flu is not totally new, but its H3N2 began mutating shortly after health authorities manufactured its vaccines – making the vaccines slightly off the mark at destroying the strain.
According to Dr. Michael Jhung of the CDC’s influenza division, the incidence of the H3N2 flu strain mutating shortly after creating its vaccine has made the vaccine less effective when compared to past flu vaccines – but this should not deter anyone from getting vaccinated with the available vaccine. And since only 40% of people who are at risk of the flu have gotten vaccinated, the remaining class of people should get it now because this boosts their chances of fighting off the infections.
“We’re not even halfway through the flu season,” he said. “It’s certainly not too late to get vaccinated.”
Those at higher risks of catching influenza this season include children younger than 5 years – especially infants less than 2 years old, elderly persons above 65 years of age, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, lung and heart disease. And according to Jhung, since this year’s vaccine might be less effective compared to those of past years, it is advisable that people at higher risks get vaccinated as soon as possible.
This year’s flu season started late November and might continue through April 2015, and while it is harsh to say the least, it might not necessarily be more severe than has been witnessed in past years. “We’re seeing things that we see every year,” Jhung said. “We’re not seeing dramatically higher levels of flu activity than we see every year.”
This season, about 15 children have died in what might be related to flu conditions – but this number cannot be compared with past years yet because the flu is just beginning in the season. 109 children died last year from flu-related incidents, and 171 passed on between the 2012-13 seasons. It might be noted however that more hospitalizations occurred this year compared to the past two seasons.