If you take a look at a map of the United States there isn’t one place (with the exception of Hawaii) that hasn’t been hit by the flu. It is everywhere and this year’s strain is particularly nasty. H3N2 is the strain that worries doctors, nurses and every other health professional. This strain hits hard, spreads quickly and kills. So far more than 60,000 people have been affected and that number is likely low. At least twenty children have died.
This is the time of year when I question everyone around me “Have you had your flu shot yet? If not, why not.” It is a misconception that you can get the flu from a flu shot. You can’t. And while this year’s flu shot is not a great match for what is going around, a little protection is better than no protection at all. That shot could be the difference between a mild case of flu or getting so sick that you are hospitalized. If you are living with children or anyone over the age of 65 make sure they are protected too. Already the CDC estimates that 80 people over the age of 65 have died.
This is also a good time for the government and the pharmaceutical sector to start working together to improve how we make and produce flu vaccine. The current system of growing vaccines in eggs is slow and allows the virus to to change, making the vaccine less effective. There are ways to improve the process of making the vaccines more effective and ensuring a robust supply when the population is hard hit.
It isn’t too late to protect yourself and those around you. This flu season could easily extend into the spring and vaccination is still the best tool to avoid getting sick.