Flu Season Heading for the Record Books?

According to the CDC, this may be the worst flu season in a decade, and the cases and deaths are still building. The US lost +,600 people to flu in the 2014 season, and this one may be worse.  We’re already ahead of the pace for deaths among children at 37. Further a lot of cases simply go unreported. The symptoms this year have been sufficiently severe to fill hospital beds at an above average rate.

Schools in eleven states have closed due to flu this year. That’s good. The flu appeared to pause during the winter holiday break, and then struck hard when students returned to school in January.

Flu season

As you may have read, one of the flu viruses in circulation this year is H3N2 which emerged as the “Hong Kong flu” of 1968. It’s one of the most lethal of the various strains. This year, it’s feasting on people in the 50 to 64 age group, as well as the elderly and children. However, there have been reported deaths from flu in all age ranges.

There is also another virus with flu-like symptoms called an adenovirus. The US military vacinates recruits for it, but civilian doctors don’t routinely test for it. The adenovirus can be severe and can cause permanently debilitating breathing issues.(3)

How does the flu kill? One common way is by triggering an overreaction of the body’s immune system, damaging key tissue in the lungs and cutting off the air supply. Another common way is by suppressing the immune system, allowing a secondary infection to produce toxic shock. There are other options as well, but these are the primary routes. Which route prodominates depends on the flu strain and the cleanliness of the patient’s space.(5)

As I posted in a previous blog, you don’t play games with the flu this year. “Toughing it out” fails as a strategy if breathing is affected.

How bad is this going to get? We simply don’t know.

 


Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/health/flu-rates-deaths.html?emc=edit_na_20180126&nl=breaking-news&nlid=57250219&ref=cta
  2. http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/371021-cdc-this-flu-season-worst-since-2009-swine-flu-pandemic
  3. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/virus-looks-flu-acts-flu-it-s-not-influenza-n840651
  4. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/intense-flu-season-has-required-some-of-medicines-most-difficult-choices/
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-the-flu-actually-kill-people/

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