Flu season has already begun, with three cases being reported in Western Massachusetts, and this year may be different from those past as the CDC has made multiple new recommendations and different options made available for the public. Let’s answer your questions.
When does flu season begin and how long does it last?
Flu season has begun already. It typically starts in the Fall, and ends late Spring. So the range is described as October to May with it peaking December to March.
It is difficult to predict, but already this early in the season we’ve had multiple flu related deaths reported by the CDC’s Flu View.
The flu is caused by a virus. Multiple strains of virus’ can cause the flu. The virus itself can be lethal, however the greatest risk comes with what it does to your immune system, thereby putting one at risk of secondary infections. Pneumonia is the number one cause of flu-related deaths. Secondly, it can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma, seizures, even promote preterm birth, hence those who are pregnant or have pre-existing medical conditions are urged to get vaccinated against the flu. Moreover those who qualify should get the pneumonia vaccine as well.
According to the CDC, the trivalent vaccine covers for these three strains of flu virus:
Quadrivalent influenza vaccines will contain these three viruses and an additional influenza B vaccine virus, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage).
These vaccines are aimed at providing protection against the Swine flu, and some influenza A and B strains.
This year, those over 65 will have two options for their flu vaccine.
Fluzone High-Dose – a higher dose flu vaccine that will hopefully allow their immunity to protect against the flu longer
FLUAD – the trivalent flu vaccine with an adjuvant to stimulate more of an immune response.
Flublock Quadrivalent – provides protection against 4 strains.
This year, the CDC does allow use of the nasal spray vaccine as it has shown improved efficacy from prior years. However it is only recommended for those who are between the ages of 2 and 49 and cannot be given to those who are pregnancy or who have compromising medical conditions as outlined by the CDC.
All individuals 6 months old and older unless specified by their medical provider.
Most individuals allergic to eggs can still get the flu vaccine, but if the allergy to eggs is severe (anaphylaxis, angioedema, difficulty breathing), the CDC recommends notifying your medical provider and being in a facility to monitor you if you do get the flu vaccine.
No. The flu vaccine has a “killed” version of the virus meaning it’s not an active virus (as opposed to a live attenuated vaccine, a weakened down version of it). A “killed” or “inactivated” vaccine merely has the pathogen particles to induce an immune response. Additionally, when one states they got the flu despite the flu shot it could be that the flu shot only protects against 3 – 4 strains and they were infected with a more rare strain not covered by the vaccine.
The average effectiveness each year hovers around 60%. Last year’s efficacy was much lower and this year’s has not been predicted as of yet. Australia is still reporting active cases on their Department of Health website.
For some, the immune response that ensues can make one feel mildly ill, but should not resemble the flu. Those who state they got the flu “immediately” after receiving the shot, might have already been exposed and had not had a chance to produce immunity prior to their exposure.
A cold comes on slower and less severe. Flu symptoms are more abrupt and can include:
There are antiviral medications available, such as Tamiflu, to treat the flu. Antibiotics, however, will not work since the flu is not caused by a bacteria but rather a virus. However if a secondary bacterial infection takes over, antibiotics may be used.
Besides vaccination, avoid being around those who are sick, thorough hand washing, and take good care of yourself. A balanced diet, exercise and sleep regimen can help boost your immune system.
Wishing you health this season!
Although flu cases have started to decrease since its peak early this winter, flu season may continue well into late Spring. The CDC warns a second wave of flu may be upon us as Influenza B is making the rounds.
Although first bombarded with H3N2 “A” strain influenza, Americans appear to be reporting more “B” flu cases this time of year, comprising more than 58% of cases lab-identified.
And young children are especially susceptible to B strain viruses.
5 pediatric flu-related deaths have been reported this week. The CDC cites 133 influenza-related pediatric deaths for the current 2017-2018 season.
According to the CDC:
Overall, influenza A(H3) viruses have predominated this season. However, in recent weeks the proportion of influenza A viruses has declined, and during week 11, influenza B viruses were more frequently reported than influenza A viruses.
Week 11 (March 11-17, 2018) has seen the following:
The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 2.7%, which is above the national baseline of 2.2%. Nine of 10 regions reported ILI at or above region-specific baseline levels. Six states experienced high ILI activity; nine states experienced moderate ILI activity; New York City, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and 17 states experienced low ILI activity; and 18 states experienced minimal ILI activity.
The trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines both protected against Influenza B as well as the A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 this year. However, flu shot efficacy proved poor for the 2017-18 season, being approximately 30% effective. Moreover, flu viruses can mutate as the season progresses.
It is not uncommon for one to be infected with the flu twice by two different strains circulating during the season.
What’s concerning is allergy season is beginning to overlap with flu season. Those with allergies may have a temporary weakness in their immune system, making them more susceptible to catching a cold or flu.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee voted this week to return the FluMist, nasal spray flu vaccine, to the recommended options for the 2018-2019 flu season.
In 2016 it was not recommended and discouraged as they found its effectiveness against seasonal flu to be approximately 46%, when 65% efficacy was touted by the injectable flu shot. However this flu season, the current flu vaccine was found to be only 35% effective with one of the worst flu seasons in years taking the lives of healthy young adults and children.
Why was this season so severe? The H3N2 strain was the predominant one, notorious for bad flu seasons, and is crafty, able to mutate before the vaccine is finalized. Hence our flu vaccine was not able to be as close a match as desired.
The panel voted 12-2 this week to include FluMist as an option for medical providers to recommend against the upcoming 2018-2019 flu season.
Why was FluMist removed? Experts found it to be ineffective against one of the influenza A H1N1 strains. With its overall efficacy found to be lower than the flu shot it was deemed a less ideal option than the shot.
FluMist is a live attenuated vaccine that is not recommended in infants and pregnant women. It’s indicated for those between the ages of 2-49 and introduces a live, weakened version of the flu virus to incite an immune response. This differs from the injectable flu vaccine which uses killed versions of the flu strains to induce a flu response.
Children prefer the FluMist as the nasal spray offers a less painful option than an injection.
The FluMist Quadrivalent nasal spray, manufactured by MedImmune of AstraZeneca PLC, offers protection against 4 strains of flu including H1N1, H3N2 and two influenza B strains. According to FluMist’s prescribing information, the FluMist proved 90% effective against H3N2 as opposed to influenza B where it scored 44.3% effectiveness. Another review found its efficacy against H3N2 to be 79%.
Now that’s not to say the FluMist would have been immune to the vaccine issues experienced with this year’s flu shot as H3N2 is a highly virulent and mutable virus, and could have snowed the FluMist vaccine makers as well.
Yet we may need to consider that the FluMist may be more efficacious for some strains of the flu whereas the flu shot may better protect us against others. More research needs to be done in this area. As of now choosing which flu shot to get for the next flu season may be a crap shoot.
The Flu season of 2017 Holidays and early 2018 is different. H3N2, a subtype of influenza A, has been around for years but it mutated in 2014-2015 and during that flu season the mutated strain caused the majority of influenza in the United States. H3N2 is more easily spread by just being beside a person breathing within six feet. The inoculum or, load of virus, needed to infect is small, and it grows rapidly in lung tissue. This process can cause secondary lobar bacterial pneumonia rapidly putting somebody into respiratory failure, ICU, ventilator dependent or quickly become fatal. The vaccine is useless, because the new H3N2 genetics is not tracked by the current vaccine. Vaccines only create antibody to tag the pathogenic virus, and do not kill it. Only your activated T-Lymphocytes and Granulocytes kill pathogens with singlet free radical oxygen.
So what is the solution? In public places with high prevalence of influenza, wearing a Niosh N95 mask helps to protect airways. Use antipathogenic wipes that destroy the viral capsids of RNA and DNA viruses and pathogenic bacterial cell walls. Remember to keep the wipes in a Ziploc for protection. Taking natural antipathogenics to prevent viruses from attaching to cell receptors of airways, eyes, and mouth; and killing viruses before they gain a foothold and migrate to your lungs or gastrointestinal tracts.
Dr. Bill Deagle is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Dr. Bill Deagle, MD is a member of the AAEM (American Academy of Emergency Medicine), ACAM (American College of Sports Medicine) and A4M (American Anti-Aging Association). His radio program, The NutriMedical Report, is nationally syndicated M-F from 2:00 pm -5:00 pm CST here at GCN. Dr. Bills range of nutraceuticals can be found here. For additional audio and video content with amazing material on health, geopolitics, the military, technology and conservative issues visit Deagle-Network.com. All email consults are FREE.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reports the flu increases one’s risk for a heart attack by six within the first week.
Study author Dr. Jeff Kwong, a family physician and epidemiologist from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario, and his colleagues looked at 20,000 adults who were diagnosed (and lab confirmed) with the flu in Ontario from 2009 – 2014. Of these adults, 332 had a heart attack, either the year before, after or during the flu. Heart attack risk was 6 times higher the week of the flu and was elevated in those older than 65.
Many of the individuals had cardiac risk factors (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol) illustrating if one is at risk for a heart attack, a cardiac event may be more likely to occur if they get the flu.
This isn’t the first time a link between heart attack and flu has been suggested. In 2007, Meade et al found a bout with the flu to double the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Their theory was the flu dislodged fatty deposits sitting along the arteries, allowing them to travel to the coronary arteries or those in the brain resulting in a heart attack and stroke respectively.
Another theory is the cardiac risk factors may worsen during the flu. Blood sugars are difficult to control, hence fats in the blood will follow, and blood pressure may be affected when one is battling an infection.
Inflammation has been linked to heart attack, thus inflammation resulting from the flu may also be a culprit.
The study authors wrote, “Cardiovascular events triggered by influenza are potentially preventable by vaccination.” The flu shot this year has been projected to only be 30% effective against this season’s active strains but is still being recommended this season as hospitalizations and deaths from the flu are reaching record numbers.
A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle fails to receive the blood and oxygen it needs. This can occur by arteries supplying the heart muscle to become blocked. Coronary artery disease can be caused by plaque build up from fats, sugars, calcium, fibrin that settle on the blood vessel wall. These plaques can build up and occlude the lumen, obstructing blood flow.
Additionally a heart attack can occur when an unstable plaque rips off, tearing the blood vessel lining causing the body to form an immediate clot. This clot can also be deadly as it obstructs the lumen as well.
Firstly, we must know our risk factors. These include:
Family history of heart disease
Personal history of heart disease
High Blood Pressure
Males over 40
Females who are postmenopausal
and even short stature has been cited as a potential risk factor.
As you can see, many of us can be at risk for heart disease. Therefore secondly, we should be evaluated with an EKG, echocardiogram and any other exams our medical provider and/or cardiologist deem necessary.
Thirdly, reduce your risk by the following:
Maintain a normal blood pressure
Maintain normal blood sugar
Maintain normal cholesterol and lipid levels
Maintain a balanced diet, rich in potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables
Maintain a healthy weight.