This Year’s Flu Season May Be Bad – What You Should Do
Written by Dr. Larry
IIn the CDCs weekly report on influenza, they noted that the flu subtype H3N2 may not be covered well with the flu shot and to possibly anticipate a bad flu year.
KTVU asked me to comment on this.
Is the Flu Here Yet, as of Dec 11?
3 billion (1/3 people worldwide) lifetime infection, with 11 million active, 159/100,000.
No. I’m not seeing it in the ER yet—when it’s flu season, it can seem like every other patient I see complains of fever and body aches and thinks they’re going to die (that’s one of the things that when people say it, makes me think of the flu “I feel like shit” = possibly influenza) and up to 10% of the population can be affected (that’s 30 million people, folks). I think of my last 60 patients I saw in early December 2017, I was thinking flu in only 1 of them, and their flu test was negative. Dec to Feb is flu season, I imagine in the next couple weeks we will see more of it.
There is “moderate” flu activity in the South and Puerto Rico, but according to CDC data, which is pooled from nation-wide sources, the flu hasn’t significantly hit California yet.
Why Are People and the News Saying This Flu Season May Be Bad?
A couple things:
- the type of flu that appears to be dominating the early season is influenza A, subtype H3N2, which if past numbers predict future performance, has been a flu subtype that isn’t well covered by the vaccine.
- This H3N2 is the same flu that dominated the flu season that just finished in Australia, and the flu shot was about 10% effective there. We’re probably looking at the same virus, and unfortunately—we use the same ineffective flu shot.
So if I Haven’t Gotten a Flu Shot Yet, is it Worth It?
Yes, in my opinion. Even if the flu shot is only 10% effective, that will translate into many lives saved in the country, even though it may not offer a ton of individual protection. I am well aware that it’s often a hard sell to do things for the benefit of society even though it doesn’t do much for you as an individual—but it’s still the right thing to do, and that’s why.
So What Can I Do to Prevent the Flu When it is Anticipated to be Bad?
Even when the flu shot is 30-60% effective, it is still the best way to prevent getting the flu. Wash your hands, avoid sick folks, and stay home from work and school when you have a fever. Going out when febrile only helps the virus spread. Since the virus is spread via respiratory droplets, if you are among a lo of coughers, wearing a mask would help prevent catching viral infection, although I think wearing a mask all winter is a bit much in general for most.
I Really Don’t Care About the Flu, I Never Get the Flu Shot and Never Get the Flu
Email me so we can reverse engineer your immune system and then sell it to make the world healthy—you’re lucky. But I get it—the flu doesn’t touch everybody like obesity and cardiovascular disease, or diet and exercise. You may be, actually, a silent carrier. Someone who doesn’t get sick with the virus, but passes it on to others. In which case—nice job. You make the world sicker. One way to not be a public health menace to society like Jenny Mccarthy or Gweneth Paltrow—you got it. Get the flu shot to help prevent even being a carrier.