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2017 Flu Season Could Be Especially Deadly for Seniors

December 11
13:07 2017

Image result for senior flu shot

Flu season is upon us and I saw on the national news there have already been 7,040 cases of influenza reported this November compared to only 3,454 cases in November 2016. with large outbreaks that have already been reported in four states – Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

The strain being detected so far is H3N2 which means that symptoms may be more severe than with other strains in the past. Doctors and many medical professionals are already recommending that children, seniors and others with compromised immune systems get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, but how much is that expected to really help?

If you ask most doctors, they will tell you it will help a lot, but statistics so far this year indicate otherwise and here is why.

Health experts in the United States always look to see what is happening in Australia with the flu as it always hits there first and they use the same flu vaccines used here in the US and those reports are not looking good. According to the New England Journal of Medicine:

“As clinicians in the United States prepare for the start of another influenza season, experts have been watching the Southern Hemisphere winter for hints of what might be in store for us in the North. Reports from Australia have caused mounting concern, with record-high numbers of laboratory-confirmed influenza notifications and outbreaks and higher-than-average numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. The number of notifications reached 215,280 by mid-October, far exceeding the 59,022 cases reported during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, according to the Australian Government Department of Health. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated, and the preliminary estimate of vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) was only 10%. The implications for the Northern Hemisphere are not clear, but it is of note that the vaccine for this upcoming season has the same composition as that used in the Southern Hemisphere…”

“Seasonal influenza epidemics cause 3 million to 5 million severe cases and 300,000 to 500,000 deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States alone sees 140,000 to 710,000 influenza-related hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths each year, with the highest burden of disease affecting the very young, the very old, and people with coexisting medical conditions.”

One of the key problems is that there are numerous strains of influenza (flu) with usually a couple being the most prevalent. Companies that make vaccines work with medical experts who tell them which strain or strains should need a vaccine. The problem is that from year to year, the strain can mutate, affecting the efficacy of a vaccine. It also takes time to create and process a vaccine, so suddenly discovering the characteristics of the current strain of flu that is sweeping across the continent does not always present enough time to create the right vaccine.

With the current vaccine only being effective in about 10% of the cases, there will be many more people catching the flu, filling the hospitals and sadly, also filling the mortuaries.

I recommend you listen to your doctor and you decide if you want to get a flu vaccine this year or not, but even if you do, you need to take extra precautions, such as frequently washing hands after being around other people, keep more distance between you and other people, be cautious of anyone sneezing, coughing or looking like they don’t feel well. If it’s being reported that the flu is in your area, don’t go out among others unless necessary and even then, be careful and take precautions. You also need to make sure you keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lots of water, not tea, coffee, soda or juice, but water.

If you start to feel ill and suspect you may have the flu, see your doctor as soon as possible. They may not be able to stop the virus, but they can help treat the symptoms and hopefully help prevent you from ending up in the hospital or mortuary.

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HLA Staff

HLA Staff

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