Tag: flu season

Will This Season’s Flu Shot Fail?

Flu season hasn’t even started yet, but we are all seeing anti-vax myths warning that the flu shot will fail in epidemic numbers. Where are they coming from?

Most of these anti-vax folks don't think that any vaccines work...
Most of these anti-vax folks don’t think that any vaccines work…

A lot of it is from the usual suspects…

Will This Season’s Flu Shot Fail?

Anyway, is there anything to this?

Can anyone really predict whether or not this season’s flu vaccine will be effective or if it will fail?

Probably not.

What they can do is scare folks into thinking that the flu vaccine won’t work, so that they don’t get vaccinated and protected, ensuring that we really will have a bad flu season!

Consider last fall. Many were predicting a mild flu season in North America following a mild season in the Southern Hemisphere and yet, 136 children died.

And this year?

Will a moderate to severe flu season in the Southern Hemisphere mean that we will be seeing a severe flu season too?

Maybe, but consider that the issue in the Southern Hemisphere wasn’t a vaccine mismatch.

Last year's flu vaccine in Australia was a good match.

They had a good match with their flu vaccine. The problem was just that they had a lot of flu!

So why do folks think that we will have a mismatch?

The A strains in the southern and northern hemisphere flu vaccines are different.

It’s because the A strains in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere flu vaccines are different, which is a little unusual, but not unheard of.

“Additional data obtained in recent weeks has confirmed the wide regional differences in the relative proportion of A(H3N2) viruses belonging to the phylogenetic subclade 3C.2a1b and clade 3C.3a. The majority of A(H3N2) viruses collected and genetically characterised from September 2018 to February 2019 belonged to the phylogenetic subclade 3C.2a1b; however, the proportion of viruses falling into clade 3C.3a has increased substantially since November 2018 in several countries in western Europe, Israel and especially in the United States of America.”

A lot of work goes into figuring out which strains to include in each year’s flu vaccine and that got us to where we are now.

Unfortunately, a lot of different flu vaccine strains circulate each season, which is why some folks get sick even though they have been vaccinated.
Unfortunately, a lot of different flu vaccine strains circulate each season, which is why some folks get sick even though they have been vaccinated.

Did they make the right decision?

Is our flu vaccine a match?

Some folks are saying that since they changed it again, for next year’s southern hemisphere flu vaccine, then they must have messed up.

So which flu virus strains are circulating so far? Will it be the 3c3.A clade of H3N2 that is in our flu vaccine? Will it be an H1N1 virus?

Of course, it is too early to tell.

“A/H3N2 viruses continue to show substantial diversity in HA sequences with a deep split between 3c3.A and 3c2.A1b viruses. The most notable recent developments are the rapid rise of clade A1b/137F – a subclade of A1b/135K – in China and Bangladesh and clade A1b/197R – a subclade of A1b/131K – which dominates the ongoing season in Australia. Our models predict that A1b/137F and A1b/197R will be the dominant clades next year with A1b/197R accounting for most circulation. There is, however, large uncertainty in the true extent of A1b/137F circulation.”

Bedford et al on Seasonal influenza circulation patterns and projections for September 2019 to September 2020

While we are seeing sporadic cases, flu activity is very low, which makes it a great time to get vaccinated and protected, before flu season really gets started.

And the predictions of a failed flu vaccine?

“Over the last 18 months, 3c3.A viruses have increased markedly in the US and Europe and accounted for 60% of isolates in North America and 10-20% in Europe during the last NH winter.”

Bedford et al on Seasonal influenza circulation patterns and projections for September 2019 to September 2020

I won’t let it get in my way of getting my family vaccinated and protected.

I’ll be getting my flu vaccine, crossing my fingers that they are wrong, and hoping that a universal flu vaccine gets here much sooner than later.

Even if they are right and one strain is mismatched, I understand that being vaccinated is the best protection against the flu and still provides many benefits, including the chance for milder symptoms and less severe disease.

And I know that the only true fail here, in addition to pushing misinformation about flu vaccines, is in skipping a yearly flu vaccine.

More on This Season’s Flu Shot

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

Every year, we get updated recommendations on how to best prevent and control the flu from the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

Sometimes that means big changes, but often it doesn’t.

Updated Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu from the CDC

What about this year?

“This report includes no substantial changes from the 2018–19 recommendations.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2019–20 Influenza Season

No substantial changes. That makes it easy to report!

So as usual, everyone who is at least 6 months old without a contraindication should get a flu vaccine this year.

“Balancing considerations regarding the unpredictability of timing of onset of the influenza season and concerns that vaccine-induced immunity might wane over the course of a season, it is recommended that vaccination should be offered by the end of October.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2019–20 Influenza Season

And be sure your kids get vaccinated and protected before flu season starts.

What else is there to know about the upcoming, 2019-20 flu season?

  • flu vaccine is already becoming available in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and clinics
  • despite some initial delays, up to 169 million doses of flu vaccine will be available for the 2019-20 flu season
  • FluMist will be in short supply this year, but it is available

Anyone have predictions for what kind of flu season we will have?

More on Recommendations to Prevent and Control the Flu

Has This Really Been the Longest Flu Season in a Decade?

Many folks were probably surprised by reports that this has been the longest flu season in ten years.

After all, just about everything about this year’s flu season has likely seemed mild compared to last year.

“There have been 21 straight weeks of elevated flu season in the U.S., making the current 2018-2019 flu season the longest in ten years.”

CNN

But here we are.

Has This Really Been the Longest Flu Season in a Decade?

What does it really mean to have 21 straight weeks of elevated flu season?

Where is it elevated and by how much?

“Influenza-like-illness levels have been elevated for 21 weeks this season, breaking the previous record of 20 weeks set during the 2014-2015 flu season.”

Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report Week 15

It’s likely that the media reports have been generated by a statement in the latest Weekly FluView Report that influenza-like-illness levels have been elevated for a little longer than usual this season.

What does that mean?

Well, influenza-like-illness levels are the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI), or basically, how many people are going to the doctor with flu symptoms. Once we get above the national baseline of 2.2%, we know that flu season has started.

“The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) decreased to 2.4%, but remains above the national baseline of 2.2%. Seven of 10 regions reported ILI at or above their region-specific baseline level.”

Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report Week 15

And it ends when we get back below 2.2%.

Flu season is the time we spend above the national baseline level of influenza-like illness activity.

What’s missing in the talk of the longest flu season, is that it doesn’t tell you much about the severity of the flu season. For example, the peak ILI this year was well below that of last year.

And flu season doesn’t start and end at the same time all over the country.

The bottom line? This has been an average flu season and a lot of people still died, including at least 91 children.

So whether it is a long or short flu season, severe or mild, get a flu vaccine and be protected.

More on the Longest Flu Season

Has the CDC Decided to Extended Flu Season Indefinitely?

As most people know, flu season traditionally goes from about December to March, with a peak in February.

That’s really just the peak times of flu activity though.

“While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.”

The Flu Season

Sometimes flu season starts earlier or goes later and technically, you can get the flu during any month of the year.

Has the CDC Decided to Extended Flu Season Indefinitely?

Does that mean it’s true, that flu season has been extended indefinitely?

Of course not!

It's not too late to get a flu shot! That part is true.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot! That part is true.

Surprisingly, local media in Las Vegas did actually run a story this story, with that quote.

And the CDC?

The last Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report, from March 21, says that “overall influenza activity decreased since last week, but remains relatively high for this time of year.”

“CDC expects flu activity to remain elevated for a number of weeks.”

Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report

So flu season isn’t over yet.

But that hardly means that it is never going to end!

Flu season has peaked and is starting to wind down.

But since you might expect flu activity through April and May, as we see in most years, it isn’t too late to get a flu vaccine.

“Vaccination can still be beneficial as long as flu viruses are circulating. If you have not been vaccinated by Thanksgiving (or the end of November), it can still be protective to get vaccinated in December or later. Flu is unpredictable and seasons can vary. Seasonal flu disease usually peaks between December and March most years, but disease can occur as late as May.”

Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines

That is the standard advice that is given every year. It is never too late to get a flu vaccine if you are unvaccinated and want to get protected while there is still flu activity in your area.

What about the idea of twice a year flu vaccines?

“In adults, studies have not shown a benefit from getting more than one dose of vaccine during the same influenza season, even among elderly persons with weakened immune systems. Except for some children, only one dose of flu vaccine is recommended each season.”

Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines

And yes, there have been fewer flu deaths this year, but that’s compared to one of the worst flu seasons on record!

Compared to this time last year though, there are more pediatric flu deaths in Clark County, Nevada.

It’s a good reminder that flu season isn’t over, although thankfully it won’t go on indefinitely, but still, it’s not too late to get a flu shot and get protected for the rest of this year’s flu season.

More on the Myth that Flu Season has been Extended Indefinitely