Eighty thousand Americans died of the flu last season, according to preliminary data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.…
Eighty thousand Americans died of the flu last season, according to preliminary data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s more than the number killed in traffic crashes, from acts of violence or from opioid overdoses.
It was also the deadliest influenza season since 1976, when the agency began publishing annual flu trends, told the CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield Associated Press in late September.
Seasonal flu is a killer, even during milder years. In recent times, mild flu times tend to kill about 12,000 Americans, and more serious influenza seasons kill up to 56,000.
But 80,000 deaths are an unusually high toll. This led to the massive tip ̵
1; and why should you get your flu shot.
H3N2 hits may be particularly fatal among vulnerable groups such as elderly and children. Researchers are still not sure why, but they have found that a flu season where the H3 virus dominates are generally nests – with more hospitalizations and flu-like deaths – than seasons with mostly H1N1 or influenza B viruses. And last year, the majority of influenza diseases involved the H3N2 strain.
Another reason for the severity of last year’s flu season is that the H3N2 virus is difficult to prevent with the flu vaccine. To understand why you need to understand how the flu vaccine works – and why it’s not perfect.
The vaccine is designed to protect people against three or four strains of the A and B viruses that researchers think is most common in a given year. So every year, the public health agency makes essentially guesses about which strains and mutations will make the rounds. As you can imagine, it’s no easy task – and in the research on influenza vaccine effectiveness, researchers have found that years when H3N2 circulates tends to be years when the vaccine is less effective.
Edward Belongia, a senior epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin who has studied influenza vaccine efficacy, found that during H3N2 seasons the combined vaccine efficacy was 33 percent. This meant that vaccination reduced the risk of going to the doctor by about one third. Influenza shots efficiency increased to 54 percent during influenza type B seasons and 67 percent in H1N1 seasons.
So, as researchers predicted, studies on how well the flu vaccine worked last season in America suggested it went worse than previous years.
If you have not got the shot, take it. The influenza season is going to spring, and there is still plenty of time to protect yourself and your family.
As I reported earlier, flu vaccines have very little risk – and the great potential to avoid serious illness. That’s why Belongia claims that even a certain protection is better than no protection. “[It] still prevents many hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.
Although the vaccine is not a good match for H3N2, it offers better protection against other influenza viruses that go around. And the AP reported that this year greet officials expect the milder strains that are better prevented by the vaccine to dominate.
Plus, getting the vaccine is not just about protecting yourself; It is about protecting others through the immunity of the crew. “Vaccinated people work essentially as a barrier to outbreaks, because diseases can not pass through them and infect others,” explained my colleague German Lopez. “If a sufficient proportion of the crew is immune, diseases can not be spread to enough people to thrive.” So even if you think you can shake off the flu, you can spread it to more vulnerable people who can not.
Older people, young children, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system are particularly vulnerable to flu. So crew immunity and the vaccine are particularly important for these groups. Last year 80 percent of children’s deaths occurred in non-vaccinated children, according to CDC.
When it comes to treating flu, most people can only wait their illness at home, get a lot of rest and take care not to infect others. However, people in the high risk groups – young children, pregnant women, people over 65, people with other chronic diseases – may want immediate medical and antiviral treatment such as Tamiflu.
Meanwhile, there are other, even simpler things you can do to mitigate your risk of getting the flu or spreading the virus to others. They include good old-fashioned hand wash, cover your mouth when you cough and live at home if you are ill.