Almost every single day there are reports that this season’s flu has been really intense. Reports by the CDC indicate that the flu season has affected every state, except Hawaii, and millions of people who even got vaccinated have come down with this seasonal viral infection. The worst flu cases have been seen around the Southern states like Texas across to California and parts of the Midwest. The North East has been spared this year.
Statistics indicate that more people have visited the emergency rooms and their primary care providers because of severe flu symptoms this year. However, the CDC states that the high number of emergency visits and deaths from this year’s flu are not that different from the 2014-2015 season. The strain H3N2 that dominated the flu season several years ago is the same strain causing symptoms this year. Overall, the CDC states that flu season is moderately severe.
However, it is important to know that the H3N2 strain is the most dangerous of the four seasonal flu virus strains, but it is not a new virus nor is it uniquely lethal. In most flu seasons, there’s a combination of type A strains (H1N1 and H3N2) and type B strains (Yamagata and Victoria) that cause the infection. The type B strains are usually responsible for the flu that occurs later in the season and is somewhat rare.
As of January 2018, the CDC noted that 78% of all the flu epidemics were caused by the H3N2 strain. This particular flu virus was first isolated in Hong Kong in 1968 and was responsible for deaths of over a million individuals globally. Over the past 4 decades, this virus has been in circulation undergoing a number of small mutations. In the past, millions of people have acquired the H3N2 strain. Today, this strain is a major component of the flu shot so one can expect some type of partial immunity to the flu.
Data tracked by the CDC’s Patient Surveillance Network reveals that at least 6% of Americans have been to a healthcare provider because of this season’s flu. This is the same number that was reported during the 2012-2013 and 2014-2-15 season, which were considered moderately severe flu seasons. In contrast, during the mild flu season in 2011-2012, less than 2 percent of Americans needed medical care. The worst season for the flu was in 2009 when nearly 8% of Americans needed emergency care. The H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009 was very severe and reached its peak in early October. Such pandemics rarely occur in late January or February.
Most hospitals have been dealing fairly well with the flu patients, and there have been no shortages reported. Unfortunately, this year’s vaccine appears to be working at about 30% efficiency.