5 things to know about this year's flu season


As the flu season progresses, public health officials report fewer cases than last year's harsh and deadly season.

A report released recently by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates a more effective vaccine compared to the previous two seasons and qualifies this low-impact year for influenza –
classified as having fever, cough and body aches.

Local doctors and public health officials also pointed out that the flu season was far from over and that the disease usually lasted until April. They say those who have not received the flu shot this season could still benefit.

Here are five things to know about this year's flu.

More typical season

Although this season looks sweet compared to last year's hard season, which has sickened 49 million people and killed nearly
Doctors claim that this year's flu is typical of the years leading up to the 2017-18 season, according to doctors.

The CDC estimated that this year's influenza season had reached its point of departure
13.2 million and 15.2 million nationwide. According to public health estimates, this number includes between 9,600 and 15,900 deaths, including two children in Illinois.

CDC monitoring also shows that the disease in Illinois is at more moderate levels than in several other states in the Southeast, West, and Southwest.

In Illinois, this year's flu is the average of the past six years, while last year was an anomaly, said Melaney Arnold, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. Public health data from Chicago and county counties show a similar number of influenza-like illnesses compared to years prior to the 2017-2018 season.

Slow start

Doctors say the season has been slow to start, but they have noticed an increase in the number of patients this month.

Dr. David Dungan, an internist from Illinois and a pediatrician from the DuPage Medical Group, said that although he had fewer patients than last year, he had also seen a slight increase in recent weeks.

"I do not think we should rest again," he said. "This is typical; that is why they give us a broad window on influenza season. "

Vaccine success

According to the CDC report, the 2018-19 flu vaccine is effective at 47% overall and 61% for children aged 6 months to 17 years. This compares to a vaccine efficacy of 40% in all age groups for the previous two seasons.

"They must have understood," said Dr. Faith Myers, Chair of the Pediatrics Committee at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., On this year's influenza vaccine.

Myers said her pediatric practice at Lemont was "as slow as ever" during an influenza season, and that the only flu patients she saw had not been vaccinated against the flu.

Last year, she even saw immune patients fall ill, she said.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said the main flu strain in circulation this year was the H1N1 virus, a strain "against which the vaccine tends to be a little more effective".

Last year, another strain, H3N2, was more prevalent, she said. This could have contributed to the rigor of the season because, even though the vaccine protects against H3N2, it is not as effective.

Data from preliminary studies may show the effectiveness of the vaccine, but Nordlund said the percentage could change – and even increase – when the CDC will again study the effectiveness of the vaccine at the end of the season.

And there are some limitations to this year's mid-season vaccine study, she said, because there are fewer people who get sick this year to test, especially because of the slow start to season.

It's not too late & # 39;

Dungan, along with the CDC and other public health officials, encourages anyone who has not been vaccinated against influenza to make sure, even if it takes two weeks to become effective.

Dungan also points out that during another predominant season against H1N1, people were still sick in May. It was unusual, he said, but it is possible.

The lenient season "should give people confidence that the vaccine will help them," said Dungan. "It's not too late."

Nordland added that the milder season should give people confidence that the vaccine is working, pointing out that the vaccine is aimed not only at preventing the flu, but also at reducing its duration and severity. She also said last year's tough season may have caused a nationwide drop in the number of people who got the flu shot this year.

"Everyone remembered how bad it was," she says.

Multiple peaks

Although local influenza cases peaked in late December and an upward trend earlier this month, according to local public health data, it's not unusual to know a few peaks during a season, said Dr. Marielle Fricchione, medical director of the immunization program with the Chicago Department of Public Health.

"Doctors and hospitals are still telling us about the high volume," she said.

And influenza B has barely made an appearance at the local or national level.

According to Fricchione, it is typical of this strain to manifest closer to spring, which gives another peak. The second wave is another reason why doctors recommend getting the flu shot even late in the season.

"It's worth it," she says.


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