Well, I knew that it would happen sooner or later…that is when would I see my first case of Influenza 2017-2018? Unfortunately, it is it happening sooner than later as I am seeing more than a handful of children with classic flu like symptoms that come on quickly including high fever, body aches, chills, sore throat and cough. The few children that I have seen have looked like “flu victims” as they are laying down on exam table with a coat or blanket over them despite having a fever and say “they feel terrible”. Their flu tests have been positive for influenza!
To remind you there are two types of influenza: A and B. The patients that I have been seeing have had Influenza A which is typically the more “severe” illness than Influenza B. The flu vaccine (all of which is injectable this year) is a quadrivalent vaccine, which means it contains 2 influenza A viruses and influenza B virus. The vaccine components are selected each season based on the worldwide surveillance of flu activity and specifically what have been the prevalent viruses in the southern hemisphere in the months prior to our flu season.
The CDC tracts flu activity around the country every year, and they are currently reporting very little flu based on tests from surveillance sites throughout the U.S (only about 2.9% of tests are positive for flu this week) The Dallas County Health Department also tracts influenza activity and are reporting that 4.7% of their tests were positive for influenza, most of which is influenza A.
The CDC is predicating that is may be a “tough” flu season based on the most recent data from Australia. They are just wrapping up their flu season as it is early spring there now. Australia has had one of their worst flu seasons in recent years with the predominant strain being an influenza A - H3N2 virus, which typically causes more severe illness. Fortunately, this years flu vaccine contains the H3N2 virus.
Many people (including my patients and their parents) ask “why get the vaccine if it is not 100% effective?” The vaccine typically is between 40 - 60 % effective in preventing flu and if you are unlucky enough to get the flu after being vaccinated you typically have a less serious illness, are less likely to have complications and to require hospitalization. Seems like an easy choice to me.
So….it is really important to get that vaccine now…if indeed we are gong to have an early and severe fu season you don’t want to wait. It takes about 2 weeks post vaccine to develop antibodies and protection too…it is not immediate.
Parents with babies under 6 month of age also need to make sure they are immunized as well as anyone that cares for the baby. Babies under 6 month of age cannot get flu vaccine, so they need to be protected by having everyone around them vaccinated.
Our son and his wife just had their first baby a few weeks ago…a BOY!! So I assure you everyone in our family has already been vaccinated to protect that precious new grandson of ours. Welcome Stewart Wilson!