The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s widespread flu activity from this season’s outbreak in all of the continental U.S. something that hasn’t happened in the CDC’s 13 years of tracking the spread of influenza via particular surveillance. The current flu season started earlier than in the past and is likely peaking, according to the CDC.
Flu season arrived early in the US this year, and it’s been deadly. To make matters worse, the current vaccine isn’t working very well against one of the most common strains of the virus.
“This year’s influenza season is proving particularly difficult” said CDC Deputy Director Anne Schuchat.
CDC officials stressed the importance of vaccinations to prevent infection and the spread of influenza. If people are sick and especially if they are suffering from underlying conditions, officials are encouraging them to seek medical attention. Follow Spotlife Asia for the latest news and updates.
The prevalence of the flu has led to shortages of anti-viral drugs that doctors prescribe in the first 48 hours of illness to make the bug shorter and milder. Pharmacies in San Francisco and Atlanta have reportedly been running out of the drugs, but while there have been nationwide shortages in the past, the US Food and Drug Administration says there are no current shortages of brand name or generic drugs. Manufacturers reportedly have shipped more than 151 million doses of flu vaccines, making treatment readily available.
Part of the problem this season has been the prevalence of a deadly strain of influenza ‘A’ called H3N2. So far, nearly eight of every 10 lab-confirmed flu cases have been that aggressive strain, which is also being called the “Aussie flu” since Australia’s flu season preceded the US’ and was unusually severe as well.
H3N2 is not well served by vaccines because it rapidly evolves and is difficult to grow successfully in eggs, which is how most flu shots get made.
The CDC is starting to see infections caused by the H1N1 strain of the virus in states grappling with high levels of the H3N2 strain, the predominant version this season. In addition, Jernigan said, yet another type of flu caused by influenza B viruses is expected to show up later in the season.
H3N2 has compounded the damage usually wrought by the annual flu outbreak. It’s known for both its severity and ability to evade the protection provided by vaccinations that are typically more effective against the other types of flu.
Most flu vaccines are made using eggs, which are less hospitable to growing the H3N2 strain and thus less likely to develop an effective vaccine. That strain goes through more changes over time than other versions, so vaccines are often behind the curve when they reach the general public.
It’s also important for everyone in your family who can get the flu shot to do so. Kids and infants who are six months or older should get a yearly flu vaccine. Because kids under that age can’t get the vaccine, it’s important that the people around them do in order to lower the likelihood that the flu will spread among people in a household.