Even though we’ve had a fair share of warmer days this winter, don’t let the mild temperatures lead you to think there’s an equally mild risk of flu this season.
In fact, according to the CDC, throughout February, the flu has been “high and widespread across most of the nation.”
Compared to previous flu seasons, the current year to date hospitalization rate of the 2017-18 flu is comparable to the 2014-15 season, which had the highest final cumulative hospitalization rate of flu-related illnesses over the last seven years. In fact, recent data from the CDC shows that the current rate for the 2017-18 flu season is 59.9 hospitalizations for flu-related illnesses per 100,000 people. To provide some context, over the same time frame, the 2014-15 flu season had a hospitalization rate of 50.9 – which is significantly lower than the current season. Likewise, it’s still unknown whether we’ve hit the peak hospitalization rate.
The dominant virus this season appears to be Influenza A H3N2, though other viruses, such as H1N1 and influenza B have been responsible for illnesses – and several have had more deleterious effects on different age groups, particularly children.
Even more troubling is a recent study published by the CDC showing the vulnerability of children to the flu. Of the flu-related deaths in children younger than 18 between 2010 to 2016, half occurred in otherwise healthy children. This is a considerable increase from a previous 2013 study that found healthy children accounting for 40% of flu-related deaths among children under 18.
The bottom line is that the current flu season has been an especially harmful one, and the high rates of hospitalization have sparked concerns regarding the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. So, should you still get vaccinated?
The answer is universal, “Yes.”
While flu vaccines have lower effectiveness against H3N2 viruses, that’s no reason not to get a flu shot: Some form of protection is better than none at all. Think of it this way: An overcoat may not keep your entire body from getting cold, but it’s certainly going to keep you warmer than a T-shirt.
Additionally, the flu vaccine is also effective at guarding against the other B and H1N1 flu viruses, both of which are seeing increased activity, and in rare cases have also been deadly.
Outside of the flu vaccine, don’t forget to protect yourself by washing your hands thoroughly; covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough, and avoiding those who are sick. If you’re sick yourself, stay home from school or work.
Still not vaccinated? Stop by any PIC location to receive your best protection against flu. Most clinics are open 7 days a week, and you can reserve your time online. Even better, our flu shots have a $0 co-pay with most insurance plans, and if you don’t have insurance, we offer a self-pay rate of $39.99.