2017-2018 Influenza Updates

December 22nd, 2017

Estimates of anticipated influenza activity are based on the flu season of countries in the Southern Hemisphere, including Australia.  So far this season, Australia has had almost 2½ times more infections than in the same period last year. They have seen a doubling of their hospitalizations and deaths from influenza this year as well, and adults over the age of 80 and children between 5 and 9 years old have been most affected.

Influenza A (H3N2) is the predominant circulating influenza A virus nationally this year, and most of the deaths so far were due to this strain (81%).  While this strain is covered in the vaccine, there is a concern that due to mutations, the vaccine may not be as effective, which in turn may be the cause of the increased influenza cases in countries like Australia.

While we have seen modest flu activity in Indiana, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reports the state has already had its first pediatric death.

Currently in the US, the most common circulating strain is also the H3N2 strain but again, we have had modest activity thus far.  The concern is that, like Australia, we also might have a very robust flu season with a less than optimal flu vaccine effectiveness.  It is important to note that people should still be vaccinated, as the vaccine is still effective, albeit less than optimal, but it is important to note that it also provides coverage for three other influenza strains.  In addition to vaccination, we must encourage folks to employ the other tried and true strategies to minimize flu transmission and the severity of influenza disease.

Please encourage patients/students/staff to:

  • Get a flu shot (quadrivalent, if older: high antigen flu vaccine)
  • Get other recommended respiratory vaccines including pneumonia and pertussis as appropriate.
  • Wash hands with soap and water, even more often that usual.
  • Carry and use hand sanitizer while shopping or in other community settings such as schools or holiday gatherings.
  • Stay at home if running a fever associated with muscle aches – and stay home for 24 hours after the fever breaks.
  • Call a doctor if you develop a fever and muscle aches, within 48 hours, to see if you are a candidate for antiviral (which can lessen the severity and length of symptoms if taken soon after symptoms begin).
  • Call a doctor if you develop shortness of breath, chest pain or green/yellow colored sputum.

Don’t wait until after the holidays to get vaccinated, vaccines are very accessible and can easily be included in your holiday shopping!  STAY HEALTHY!

Updates as of 12-15-2017