The Flu

Monday, October 22, 2018 // Flu

As most of you know the recent flu season was the worst flu season since 2009. It is now flu shot season.  When you see pumpkins, think flu shots. Patients with fall appointments will get the vaccination during their office visit.  We schedule brief appointments for individuals who want to get the vaccine to avoid waiting. We prefer not to do walk INS ins to minimize wait times. We will be giving the quadrivalent vaccine against 4 flu strains. For those over 65, a high dose vaccine is available which is a little more effective.  Let’s hope for a good match this year!

The flu takes a formidable toll each year. Researchers and health workers save lives by routinely rolling out seasonal vaccines and deploying drugs to fight the virus and its secondary infections. But in the U.S. alone the flu still kills tens of thousands of people and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands more.

A big part of the problem has been correctly predicting what strains of the influenza virus health officials should try to combat in a given season. A team of scientists from the U.S. and China now say they have designed a vaccine that could take the guesswork out of seasonal flu protection by boosting the immune system’s capacity to combat many viral strains.

The University of California, Los Angeles–led group reported in a recent Science that they may have created the “Goldilocks” of flu vaccines—one that manages to trigger a very strong immune response without making infected animals sick. And unlike current flu vaccines, the new version also fuels a strong reaction from disease-fighting white blood cells called T cells. That development is important because a T cell response will likely confer longer-term protection than current inoculations do and defend against a variety of flu strains (because T cells would be on the lookout for several different features of the flu virus whereas antibodies would be primarily focused on the shape of a specific strain). “This is really exciting,” says Kathleen Sullivan, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not involved in the work.


The overall effectiveness of last season’s influenza vaccine has been estimated at 36%, according to an analysis in MMWR.

Researchers examined data on nearly 4600 patients who sought outpatient care for acute respiratory illness with cough within 7 days of symptom onset between November 2017 and February 2018. Some 38% tested positive for influenza on reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction.

Roughly 43% of those with influenza had been vaccinated. Vaccine effectiveness was estimated for each virus type as follows:

  • Influenza A(H3N2): 25%
  • Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09: 67%
  • Influenza B: 42%

When examined by age group, statistically significant protection against influenza was observed only among children aged 6 months through 8 years (59% effective) and adults aged 18 through 49 (33% effective).

The report’s authors write, “Even with current vaccine effectiveness estimates, vaccination will still prevent influenza illness, including thousands of hospitalizations and deaths. Persons aged ≥6 months who have not yet been vaccinated this season should be vaccinated.”

Dr. Anne Schuchat noted that three out of four children who’ve died from flu this season were not vaccinated.



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