Physicians with the Department of Health have officially announced this period of the year corresponds with the peak of the 2017 flu season. Data collected since the last year predicted that this year will be marked by an average season, without too many casualties. However, new evidence suggests the dominant strain threatens to seriously impact the overall health of elderly people, more specifically, those past the age of 65, health experts say.
“We’re in the middle of the peak activity right now. What we’re seeing is the H3N2 strain, which tends to cause more severe disease, especially in older people and those at high risk, so that’s a concern”, said Massachusetts epidemiologist, Dr. Al DeMaria.
Health experts added that as opposed to the dominant strain identified during the 2009 flu season, namely the H1N1, which mostly affected younger people, causing milder disease, this years’ strain is more aggressive and oriented towards people most vulnerable to disease. Physicians refer to the H3N2 virus as the “bad actor” among type-A influenza viruses.
Moreover, this years’ vaccine is only 50 percent effective against the illness, added Dr. DeMaria. Although far from ideal, it is the best weapon against the disease, say health experts. It could have been even worse. For instance, last year’s match was even less effective than the vaccine for the strains circulating in 2017.
For a better immunization, Dr. DeMaria recommends elderly people to resort to specific antiviral drugs that can offer added protection against the virus, such as Relenza or Tamiflu. Children, pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases, and patients at high risk for flu are also recommended to take the antiviral drugs.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s epidemiologist, Lynnette Brammer said it is still too early to tell whether health experts are dealing with an aggressive flu season, as the latest numbers have not yet been compiled. Nevertheless, she says it is still not too early to get the flu shot. Usually, flu-related deaths during a mild season rise to roughly 12,000 casualties. During an aggressive season, however, influenza can claim as many as 56,000 lives, Lynnette Brammer added. Until further notice, health experts urge people to get the flu shot as soon as possible and take all precautionary measures, including practicing the coughing etiquette.
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