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Is There Influenza in Your Town?

People may be wondering, is there influenza near here. In most parts of the country right now, the answer is yes.
Flu Concept. Worried black mother checking her daughters temperature, child covered in blanket, copy space

Flu season began early in the US, but it shows no sign of fading. Influenza continues to spread around the country. Is there influenza in your town or county?

What the Flu Season Looks Like So Far:

Initially, the flu season started with a predominance of influenza type B/Victoria. This year’s flu shot doesn’t appear to be very effective against that strain. Having type B flu early in the year is unusual, since most years the flu season begins with type A influenza infections, with type B showing up later, as we approach springtime.

Is There Influenza Near You?

There are also type A strains of influenza on the move. The one that predominates is H1N1, but H3N2 is also gaining in prevalence. It remains unclear how well this year’s vaccine will protect against these viral strains. What is clear is that very likely there are cases of influenza somewhere in your vicinity. As of January 25, 2020, 49 states and Puerto Rico were reporting widespread influenza activity. Hawaii reported regional activity, and flu activity was local in the District of Columbia. 

The CDC estimates that there have been 19 million cases of flu this year, with 180,000 hospitalizations and approximately 10,000 deaths. The hospitalization rate, 29.7 per 100,000 population, is in line with the rates from previous years. Those who are most likely to be hospitalized due to influenza are the elderly and young children up to four years old.

Flu Bugs Are Susceptible to Flu Drugs This Year:

Public health officials point out that this year’s flu strains are susceptible to antiviral medications that doctors can prescribe at the first signs of infection. Those include oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), zanamivir (Relenza) and baloxavir (Xofluza). 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I miss the Graedons’ comments regarding how many of the deaths were among the chronically ill, the age ranges of those who died, and how many who were ill, hospitalized or died had been vaccinated. This year, they are just reporting what the CDC says, which I don’t take as “gospel truth.”

A question circulating among my senior friends and others is whether or not a relatively ineffective flu shot will still provide some kind of protection and benefit from the worst ravages of flu. Is it worthwhile getting the shot now, with flu season well under way but the strain circulating is different than the shot was developed to prevent? There’s not much point being immunized if there’s no benefit.

All the experts suggest that the flu shot, imperfect as it is, reduces the severity of illness even if it doesn’t prevent flu. We haven’t dug deep enough into the research to examine that data.

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