This year's influenza was bad and it's not over yet.
The stormy sea of January and February for this year's flu season has calmed down but is far from over. The evening television coverage of national news, which showed the extent and severity of flu cases, has now evaporated into a few messages and it is tempting to conclude that we are off the hook. Of course, this season was very difficult and led to rates of influenza cases that were no longer observed since 2009, when we experienced the pandemic of H1
In our Children's Hospital at the New Mexico Hospital of the University of New Mexico, we saw 2,500 patients in January for health care problems, many of whom had had a flu or flu problem. Last year for comparison we saw 1,500 patients in January. At the height of the flu season, our Health Science Center had about 400 positive influenza tests; The latest information showed 200 positive influenza tests in the first week of March
Much has been written about the "failure" of this year's flu vaccine to protect against disease. Under normal circumstances, the difficulties with an effective flu vaccine will expect the right flu viruses to circulate for a flu season. This decision is made by CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) in February, a few months before the start of the flu season. This is necessary because of the time it takes to produce the flu vaccine, especially the vaccine made using eggs. For this flu season, there was no problem in choosing the right strains for the flu vaccines. The difficulty was in the production process of the egg-based influenza vaccine. We know that the influenza virus is constantly mutating in nature, that is, the mistakes are made when copying the genetic material of the influenza virus. A recent research paper investigated why egg-based flu shot has shown diminished efficacy in recent years. The researchers showed that this production method produced mutations within the influenza vaccine itself, resulting in a reduced ability to protect against the influenza H3N2 strain. This development has been very daunting for all of us in the health professions and for the public and has contributed to the severe flu season that we have just had. However, reduced efficacy does NOT mean that there is no efficacy for the egg-based flu vaccine. In addition, there are other types of flu vaccines made from cell-based technology that are likely to avoid this problem.
So, where are we in this year's flu season around the second week of March? The wonderfully warm weather has led us to think that we have finished the flu. As mentioned above, we have recently recorded about 200 cases of influenza, and there are still many more patients who have had influenza that we have not tested. Every case of influenza is a risk that a serious case can occur. At the peak of the influenza season, it has been estimated that approximately 4,000 deaths per week have occurred in America due to influenza and complications of the flu. Some of these deaths are tragically children. About a month ago, our tests showed that influenza A (H3N2), the predominant influenza virus, has switched to influenza B, and this trend has continued. The quadrivalent influenza vaccine (containing 4 flu vaccines) covers this influenza B virus well. Unfortunately, the high-dose influenza vaccine recommended for those over 65 years of age does not cover the circulating strain of the influenza B strain.
Even though the flu season is declining, for anyone who has not got flu yet vaccine, it's not too late!