Author’s Note: Today’s post is an update to an earlier feature published here last month. To view the previous publication, please click here.
It seems that the news on this year’s flu outbreak isn’t getting better as the season progresses. Although the incidents aren’t proving to be as fatal as once feared, the pesky virus is leaving discomfort and misery with those infected. I know this because I was ill with the flu for most of this winter’s holiday. Trust me on this, it was no picnic! Evidently, I am in excellent company. In the USA, infection numbers are higher than usual.
I was bedridden for the entire time. I barely had the strength to get myself out of the bed when I needed. As almost everyone has suffered with the flu at one time or another, I won’t elaborate any more of my symptoms here. I’ll end with the fact that when Aaron finally returned after spending the holiday with his family, I was overjoyed to see him and the reason was not due to any amorous expectations! I knew then that if I needed to get out of our bed again, at least he was there to carry me.
On Friday, February 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the worst level of influenza (flu) infections in the USA since the swine flu epidemic of 2009. In what was expected to be a relatively mild flu season, the news just keeps getting worse. The major problem seems to be with the H3N2 strain of the flu, one of several strains that the CDC anticipated being prevalent this year. Scientists now confirm that the current practice of incubating the virus the eggs of chickens allows them to mutate (change) making the vaccine less effective in preventing the flu in humans.
Additionally, another complication is the cold winter. The severe temperatures occurring across the USA are keeping people indoors. This increases the exchange of germs between people, thus increasing the likelihood of infection with the flu, especially the now mutated H3N2 strain. As I wrote in my previous post on the flu, this year’s vaccine contained strains of the H1N2 and Influenza B in addition to H3N2. To date, the inoculation that individuals received apparently is effective in prevention of H1N2 and Influenza B as the H3N2 virus is the only one causing problems.
Again, public health officials are encouraging people to get their flu shots. Protection from two strains of the flu is indeed better than no protection against all three strains that are prevalent this season. Given that this is now the third consecutive year that the flu shot is proving less effective than desired, scientists are frantically searching for methods to improve incubation of the virus for the future.
As a reminder to everyone, one method of disease prevention continues to prove to be successful. Frequent hand-washing using anti-bacterial soap and hot water is still a valid safeguard against disease transmission. Sometimes, simpler is better.