The 2017-2018 flu season has shown to be particularly nasty this year — in part, they believe, because of a less effective vaccine. Each month, flu cases have multiplied and the CDC has already warned this year’s flu will be worst than the last. To date, 36 states are showing widespread influenza levels and many believe this season could easily reach epidemic levels.
Headlines across the country are indicative of epidemic fears
- 9 Texas schools have closed due to flu outbreaks this month
- Several Tennessee schools closed due to the flu
- Flu has sent more than three times the number of people to the hospital in Colorado than usual
- The University of Chicago hospital is even taking steps to restrict visitors. In a recent article, the hospital “will not allow children under age 12 and those with a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion will not be allowed to visit patients.
- U.S. not prepared for a flu pandemic, experts warn
- Texas flu epidemic spreading rampantly
- Severe flu brings medicine shortages, packed ERs and a rising death toll in California
An Ineffective Flu Shot Has Led to Health Concerns
The results of tests performed by public health laboratories, as well as the age group distribution of influenza positive tests, during the current week are summarized below.
*The percent of specimens testing positive for influenza is not reported because public health laboratories often receive samples that have already tested positive for influenza at a clinical laboratory and therefore percent positive would not be a valid indicator of influenza activity. Additional information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/overview.htm.
Influenza A has been the more predominant strain this year and is known to cause more severe symptoms. On average in the United States, this strain can kill between 4,000-60,000 people a year.
With the flu shot only mildly effective, many will not stand a chance at fighting off this powerful strain. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suspects the vaccine won’t work any better in the U.S. [than it did during Australia’s flu season] “It is possible that we will experience low vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) viruses and a relatively severe influenza season if they predominate,” Fauci and colleagues wrote in an article published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Source)
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The reason the 2017 shot isn’t preventing as many cases of the H3N2 strain or Flu A is that the flu strain scientists were using to grow the virus mutated during the growing process. It’s not a harmful defect, but it means that the non-live strain of H3N2 influenza in the injection is slightly different than what’s actually circulating in the human population. This means that our bodies are not capable of fighting this flu strain off as easily.
This is not the first time the flu shot has been ineffective. In 2015, the UK experienced a sharp increase in flu cases. Only 3 out of every 100 vaccinated people were prevented from getting full-blown influenza, a situation that led to a large rise in the elderly winter death rate in the UK. In the same year, on the other side of the pond, the U.S. saw extreme flu cases leading the CDC to admit the flu shot did not work.
The same is being said for this year’s flu shot and we must stay aware of the symptoms and prepare accordingly.
The suddenness of symptoms is also what sets this flu apart from others. Experts indicate that with this flu, you are aware of the moment you begin coming down with symptoms rather than a gradual decline in health. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.