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Health News

Influenza 2018: Too late for protection?

By Susan Burke March

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the 2018 flu season is upon us, most virulently in North America and Australia where influenza A (H3N2) remains predominant and activity remains high.

In the Caribbean and Central American countries respiratory illnesses and flu remain low. In tropical areas of South America the cases are reportedly low to none.

However, in the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere, influenza remained “overall at inter-seasonal levels.”

In the U.S., the 2018 influenza virus has killed more children than would normally be expected at this time of year. As reported by the Washington Post, this year’s flu season “is already the most widespread on record since health officials began keeping track 13 years ago.” NBC News writes that healthy young adults and children as well as the usual sick and elderly are victims, and explains that there are three main reasons that the flu kills, and sometimes surprisingly quickly.

There are three main reasons:

  1. Co-infection with another germ, usually bacteria such as strep
  2. Aggravation of existing conditions such as heart disease and asthma
  3. A so-called ‘cytokine storm’ marked by an overwhelming immune system response to infection.

According to PassportHealth.com, the H3N2 strain mutates at a faster rate and spreads with more severity, and also appears to cause an unusually high rate of complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year, and although there is not yet a “universal vaccine” the vaccines recommended for the Northern Hemisphere are typically adjusted differently for the Southern Hemisphere. Going to be traveling in both hemispheres? There’s no harm in getting two flu shots, knowing that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to offer full protection. Read more from the WHO here. Although the flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective, according to the American Society for Microbiology, may be of some benefit by lessening the severity of symptoms among those who do get the flu.

Typical flu symptoms include body aches, fever, sore throat, cough, exhaustion, congestion, and in rare cases vomiting and diarrhea.

The CDC says “Take 3” Actions to Fight the Flu

  1. Take time to get your flu vaccine.
  2. Take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs, including staying home if you’re sick, washing your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, Ecuador spent $10 million to acquire 3.9 million doses of flu vaccine “amid a flu outbreak that has afflicted nearly 500 people and claimed 23 lives.” As of January 25, nearly one million people have been vaccinated.  They report that the majority of cases reported have been in Quito and the surrounding province of Pichincha. Priority for vaccines is given to children under 5, pregnant women, people over 65 and those suffering from chronic illnesses, as well as health care personnel.

It’s not too late to get your flu shot.  Last week my husband and I walked into the Ministerio de Salud on Avenida 12 de Abril near the Hospital Militar, walked upstairs, showed our cedulas, and got the flu vaccine. I was told by an expat friend that vaccination will be available in Centros de Salud and hospitals, especially for people in the high-risk category, which includes folks over 65, through January 31.

  • Acbig1

    Great info. Thank you.

  • Ken

    Thanks for another great article! I’m sure you posted it before this breaking news from yesterday.
    There is a six-fold increase for the risk of heart attack for those with the flu within the first few days.
    Another outstanding reason to get your Flu Shot !

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-flu-heart-attack/flu-increases-the-risk-of-heart-attack-idUSKBN1FD34O

    • Yes, I see written in LiveScience.com, “The flu can be a serious illness itself, but it may also increase the risk of having a heart attack, a new study from Canada finds.

      The study found that patients’ risk of a heart attack was six times higher during the first week following a flu diagnosis, compared with their risk in the year before or the year following being sick with the flu.

      The findings highlight the importance of getting a flu shot to prevent the disease, lead study author Dr. Jeff Kwong, a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, a nonprofit research organization in Ontario focused on health care issues, said in a statement. “People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing.”

    • Jason Faulkner

      Any inflammatory state is prothrombotic and therefore increases the likelihood of heart attack.

  • Bobette

    The WHO announced earlier this year that this year’s flu shot would be only about 10% effective. For a very slim chance that it might protect you from the current flu, you get a large dose of mercury and aluminum, two well-known neurotoxins. Sounds like a very bad trade-off to me!

    • Carol

      Define “large”. And I get my dose of mercury from tuna…

    • I’m not sure where you get your information, but the flu vaccine does NOT provide a “large dose of mercury and aluminium” and that’s a myth perpetuated by uninformed conspiracy theorists. I can quote ad infinitum from the WHO and CDC about the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine. As I’ve said, you’re free to not get the flu vaccine of course, it’s your choice. But don’t spread misinformation. From the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm And from the World Health Organization, whom you chose to cite, and who recommends that ALL get a flu vaccine. http://www.who.int/influenza/vaccines/en/

    • Ken

      “Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses.”
      – Source – WHO – World Health Organizatioin

    • StillWatching

      Pure BS, straight from the lunatic fringe in Vilcabamba.

    • Jason Faulkner

      The WHO never said that. You should immediately block whoever told you that because they are deliberately misinforming you.

      And for the record, only multi-dose vials of flu vaccine contain mercury (none contain aluminum), so unless you’re in a refugee camp you aren’t going to get it. You get more mercury eating a can of tuna than you would from a lifetime of vaccinations from multi-dose vials.

  • Jason Faulkner

    I don’t think you understand how efficacy is calculated.