“Flu is the Rodney Dangerfield of diseases- People think of it as just the common cold- but it’s not. It knocks you flat” says the former director of the CDC. Please give it the respect it deserves!
As we all know by now- this year’s flu season has gotten even worse in the last few weeks in most parts of the country. There are THREE different strains right now. And guess what? – the vaccine barely covers them because they have mutated. We have either been sick or know someone who has. Which makes our patient population especially fearful.
This year, the most common strain is the H3N2- which causes nastier symptoms, more cases, more doc visits, more trips to the hospital, and (ugh) more deaths – especially among older patients. This strain is harder to stamp out because it responds less to the vaccine. In the 2014-2015 season- the vaccine was effective in only 19% of those who got a flu shot. Older people ( esp Baby Boomers) are more susceptible to the H3N2. So are kids and pregnant women.
The next strain going around is our old friend H1N1. Remember that pandemic from 2009?
A third strain is a form of the Influenza B virus – which mainly affects younger people. ( actually there are 2 types of this B virus).
Each strain is a threat to a different age group. Which means that at some point- many of us are going to get hit with it.
And not to be outdone – there is concern over an upcoming H7N9 strain that is currently spreading through China. It’s more lethal- but it does not spread as easily.
Right now- the drug companies are choosing which viruses to target in next year’s flu vaccine. This is a daunting task- because viruses love to mutate. When we get our flu shot next Fall- we may only be protected for a smaller % than we would like.
This flu season is the worst in almost a decade. Most of us already are aware of this. I’m not sure which strain you have had – or might get- but PLEASE BE CAREFUL OUT THERE.
More on this in next blog