UPDATE (January 16, 2018) — You're not imagining things: This year's flu season is an especially bad one. According to health experts, it may get even worse.
“Flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now,” said Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “This is the first year we have had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph, meaning there is widespread activity in all of the continental U.S. at this point.”
In fact, this flu season is the most widespread one since public health authorities first started monitoring the issue more than a dozen years ago. (Time to remind the kiddos in your life to wash their hands!) Though some experts believe that this particular season peaked a few weeks ago, that means that there will be at least 11 to 13 weeks left of it. And even if that's true, different strains of the flu could pop up in the meantime, potentially causing more disease.
If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, the time to do so is now!
UPDATE (January 9, 2018) — Bad news: Cases of the flu have spiked in the U.S., with a whopping 46 states reporting widespread activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It gets worse: The CDC says 13 children have already died from a dangerous strain of H3N2, a particularly deadly variety of influenza, since the beginning of flu season in October. The agency adds that this year's flu vaccine is only expected to be about 32 percent effective because H3N2 tends to mutate. However, the CDC still recommends that all people over the age of five get the shot to reduce symptoms of the virus.
"It's not too late to get a flu vaccine — as long as flu is spreading, vaccination should continue," the CDC's Kristen Nordlund told Weather.com. "It’s important to know that it takes about two weeks for protection to set in."
You heard them! If you haven't gotten your flu shot already, make an appointment ASAP.
UPDATE (December 8, 2017) — As experts predicted, the flu virus is hitting us hard and early this year — especially in the southern states.
In fact, the number of patients visiting their doctors for influenza-like-illness (ILI) has surge* above the national baseline for the first time this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
Five states in particular have seen moderate-to-high ILI activity: Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.
CDC officials recommend everyone get a flu shot as soon as possible if they haven't already.
(Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (December 4, 2017) — Bad news, ladies: The upcoming flu season is going to be pretty darn miserable, experts predict. So if you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, and some of his colleagues have issued a warning about what they believe could be a pretty severe flu season in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their forecast comes after Australia saw "record-high numbers of laboratory-confirmed influenza notifications and outbreaks and higher-than-average numbers of hospitalizations and deaths." Scary!
Another important warning from Dr. Fauci and his colleagues concerns the strain of the flu virus called influenza A, or H3N2. The U.S. and Australia use identical flu vaccines, and against the H3N2 strain, the Aussies' flu vaccine was only about 10 percent effective, according to estimates so far. Fauci warns that this season, we may see low vaccine effectiveness against strains of influenza A, which was the most common strain in Australia and could be here, too.
As a result, Fauci and his team are pushing for the creation of a universal vaccine, which would protect against all strains. "As we prepare for a potentially severe influenza season, we must consider whether our current vaccines can be improved and whether longer-term, transformative vaccine approaches are needed to minimize influenza-related morbidity and mortality."
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
In addition to H3N2, older adults have another strain to worry about — B Yamagata. According to Danuta Skowronski, MD, an epidemiologist at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, B Yamagata has a history of hitting older adult communities harder.
Though the CDC advised people to get their flu shots before the end of October, it's still not too late. According to the CDC, getting your flu vaccine now "can still be beneficial." And despite it having low effectiveness rates against the H3N2 strain, it will still protect you from the other strains.
While you're at the grocery store, you may also want to grab some of these life-extending superfoods!