Festive days are here once again and so is flu. Christmas, New Year’s, the last nights of Hanukkah, there is a lot of cause to celebrate over the next week or two. On the downside, it is also the time to catch flu. This year’s vaccine may not be as effective as before but it will surely mellow down the severity of flu.
So the good news is that there is time to get a flu shot and the bad news is the flu epidemic this year will be particularly severe and the flu shot will also be less effective this year. Experts are not sure how much less effective the flu shots are this year. But they are unanimous on one point; it will be a bad flu season.
The flu has started to circulate as of Friday in major parts of the country though it has not been reported in California. The flu season typically starts to pick up until the end of December or early January. According to the CDC the predominant strain of flu in circulation this time is Type A, subtype H3N2 which is known to be particularly harsh on the geriatric and young children.
Another cause of worry is the possibility of H3N2 strains showing signs of genetic drift. Genetic Drift is the ability of the strains to mutate, or drift in a way which may or may not significantly change the genetic makeup of a particular strain resulting in the evolution of a completely new strain. If the drift in H3N2 is very large there is a possibility that the vaccine may not effectively cover it.
Dr. Gil Chavez, deputy director of the center for infectious diseases with the California Department of Public Health said, “If you happen to be exposed to the H3N2 that is the drifted variant kind and you have been vaccinated, you might still contract the disease. But the vaccine offers cross-protection, so you may get a less severe course of illness. The vaccine can still help you.”