Flu season started slow this year, but it’s picking up speed and is set to last until April. Here’s what we know about this year’s vaccine and the devastating effects of flu across the globe.
According to the CDC, in the U.S., this flu season has made approximately 13–15 million people sick and killed up to 15,000, but seems mild compared to 2017–2018, in which an estimated 80,000 died. According to Wired, the severity of the 2017–2018 season had two causes: last year’s flu infections, which were heavily weighted towards H3N2, a strain that vaccines are less effective against, and last season’s influenza immunizations, which hit a seven-season low. In the previous season, 180 children in the U.S. died after getting the flu, and 75% of them were unvaccinated.
In the U.S., the flu shot is estimated to be 47% effective, which is actually an impressive feat. And, according to a pediatrician quoted in the Washington Post, infected people who had had the flu vaccine seemed to get a milder case.
In France, the flu has hospitalized more than one thousand people just in the past week. The epidemic has spared no region, with the peak expected in the next two weeks. An epidemic is declared when there are 350 cases for every 100,000 people. Doctors in France report this year’s vaccine has been successful in 65–70% of cases of the H1N1 strain, where last year it was only 30% effective. But the bad news is that according to Réseau Sentinelle, a public organization developed with the National Institute of Health and Medical Search, roughly 1600 samples taken through the Sentinelle doctors showed 294 were positive for the H1N1 virus while 452 were positive for the H3N2 virus. According to their conclusion, it is the H3N2 virus that is currently prominent in France—and that is exactly the strain that is harder to target with the flu vaccine.
In Japan, the good news is that it seems flu season is waning, with the peak past, although this doesn’t mean anyone can let their guard down.
If you haven’t gotten a shot yet, doctors still recommend that you do, but be aware it takes two weeks for it to become effective at preventing the disease. No, the vaccine cannot guarantee you won’t get the flu, but it could help lessen the illness, help you avoid a hospital stay, and can help avoid spreading it to others.
And if you need to know how to possibly prevent infection and how to deal with flu if you get it—see below. We’ve got articles for that.