Is the flu season on the way out? Health officials reported on Thursday that the infection has peaked already and is on the decline. With more children ported dying in Wisconsin, it seems its too early to predict the flu season down turn. Texas has seven so far. With 2 deaths already, Wisconsin has 5 so far and in second place.
“We likely reached our highest level of activity and in many parts of the country we are starting to see flu activity decline,” said Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Division. However according to him the threat remains high and the virus is still present in many parts of the country as of the moment.
“As has been the case since the flu season began, the predominant type of flu continues to be an H3N2 strain, which is not a good match to this year’s vaccine. The majority of H3N2-related infections diagnosed so far — 65 percent — are “different from the strain in the vaccine,” he said.
The reason for this is the dominant virus strain, H3N2 mutated so fast that the vaccines prepared by the scientists last year became obsolete before it can even be put to use.
“This year’s flu season continues to hit children and the elderly hardest. And some children continue to die from flu. “That’s not surprising,” Jhung said, adding that 56 children have died from complications of flu.
“In an average year, children’s deaths vary from as few as 30 to as many as 170 or more,” CDC officials said.
Jhung believes that in the coming weeks the existing flu virus strains will become even more prevalent. “I expect to see some other strains circulating, but I don’t know how much,” he said.
“That could be good news on the vaccine front. Right now, the flu vaccine is only about 23 percent effective, due to the mutated H3N2 strain. But, as other strains become more widespread, the vaccine’s effectiveness should increase,” Jhung said.
Flu vaccine’s effectiveness usually ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, according to the CDC. It has been like that in the previous years.
“Twenty-three percent effectiveness means there’s some benefit — a little less flu among vaccinated people. Typically, flu is more common among the unvaccinated, but this year there’s been a lot of flu both in people who are vaccinated and in those who aren’t,” CDC officials said.
“Vaccine effectiveness is also related to the health of those getting the shot. Flu vaccine usually works best in young, healthy people, and is less effective in those 65 and older,” the CDC said.
“So far, this year’s shot has been most effective — 26 percent — for children 6 months old through 17 years. Older people have been getting less benefit — 12 percent effectiveness for those 18 to 49 years and 14 percent effectiveness for those 50 and older,” according to the CDC.
Jung explained that the data taken from the present season would likely be similar to that of 2012 to 2013 season also by H3N2 strains.
“And even though it’s well into the flu season, Jhung said it’s not too late to get a flu shot.” It’s the first line of protection,” he said.