The 2019 – 2020 flu season is gearing up to be one of the most intense and difficult ones the United States has seen in a while. The Northern Hemisphere of the world can normally conclude how bad the flu season will be based on how bad it is in the Southern Hemisphere, who experience their seasons before us. Based on the data from May to present day, when countries in the Southern Hemisphere normally experience their winters/flu seasons, we should expect an even more intense season compared to last years severe outbreak.
Australia is just exiting their winter/flu season, and this year was aggressive from the start. According to Australia’s Department of Health, “influenza and influenza-like illness activity are high for this time of year compared to previous years. At the national level, notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza have decreased in the past fortnight, however it is likely these figures will be revised upwards due to backlogs in data entry. Influenza A was the most common respiratory virus detected in patients.”
In addition, a 4-year-old in California who contracted the pediatric flu, after a slew of other health issues, has died already before this years flu season has even truly begun. Even though the child had other ailments that unfortunately lead to her passing, doctors aren’t taking the flu diagnosis lightly. “We should never forget that the flu still kills, I always recommend people get their flu shots every year, but a death so early in the flu season suggests this year may be worse than usual,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a public health officer for Riverside County, California, said in a news release, announcing the death.
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Last year the United States experienced up to 43 million cases of the flu, and around 63,000 deaths that were flu-related. Again, that doesn’t mean the flu by itself killed those individuals, but either worsened pre-existing ailments, or brought out new symptoms through weakening the immune system, regardless, the severity of the flu is not meant to be overlooked.
The Flu season for the United States normally begins with the month of October, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until then to get vaccinated. Doctors are urging individuals to get their flu shots as soon as they can before the season starts. Sooner is better, but as long as you receive the vaccination before Thanksgiving, you should be good, but no later than that. Older individuals are recommended to try to wait until mid-October for their vaccinations, simply because their immune systems are weaker and may weaken the potency of the shot faster.
“There is a concern that some older people may have their immunity wane simply because their immune system is more frail, less robust,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases told NBC News.
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It takes about two weeks for the body to fully process the influenza vaccination and acquire immunity, so doctors are recommending every individual above the age of 6 months get their vaccine fast. Pregnant women are especially encouraged this year to receive their immunization. If a woman who is expecting contracts the flu, it can react as intensely as it does in the body of a 70 year old, this way, the vaccine ensures protection for the mother and her unborn child.
Many Americans don’t even bother getting a flu shot every year, since in general it’s not that effective. Last year the vaccination was only 29% fully effective, this was partially due to a second wave of influenza that wasn’t expected from doctors, but regardless 29% is not that impressive. However, there IS plenty of evidence that shows the vaccine eases the severity of the flu, and more importantly prevents further complications, that the flu can cause, to occur. These complications are what can lead to so many flu-related deaths such as pneumonia, organ inflammation, heart attack and even stroke.
Regardless, everyone should consider taking two minutes out of their day to go down to their local pharmacy for a flu shot. For small children and those with a strong aversion to needles, a nasal spray known as FluMist is available for the second year in a row. Additionally, many people have immune systems that react poorly to vaccinations due to high sensitivity, which can cause them to feel even worse as a result. Cases like that are mainly found in older individuals (65 years old and up) who have less strength in general so doctors recommend a vaccine known as FluZone, which offers a different type of stronger dose that will accommodate to the weaker body.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.