“People in public health hate H3N2 flu seasons, like the one gripping most of North America right now. So do folks who work in hospitals and in the care facilities that look after the elderly.
To put it flatly, H3N2 is the problem child of seasonal flu.
It causes more deaths than the other influenza A virus, H1N1, as well as flu B viruses. It’s a quirky virus that seems, at every turn, to misbehave and make life miserable for the people who contract it, the scientists trying to keep an eye on it, and the drug companies struggling to produce an effective vaccine against it.
“H3 viruses dwarf the contribution of H1 to overall epidemic burden [of influenza] in terms of hospitalizations, care facility outbreaks, deaths. I think uniformly in public health we dread H3N2 epidemics over and above those due to H1N1,” said flu expert Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist with the British Columbia Center for Disease Control.
Dr. Daniel Jernigan, head of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concurred. “We just know, over the last several years, when we have an H3 season, it’s unfortunately causing worse disease. But also the vaccine’s effectiveness [targeting it] is not as high as the other components. And so for that reason, even though you’ve been vaccinated, you still can get infected,” ….. “People born before 1968 were not imprinted with an H3N2 virus. So they may have increased susceptibility [to it] as well as, by virtue of their age, have greater vulnerability, just through complications. So that could be totally independent of whether the virus itself is more virulent or not,”…(A)
“Influenza activity increased sharply again in this week’s FluView report. The number of jurisdictions experiencing high activity went from 21 states to 26 states and New York City and the number of states reporting widespread activity went from 36 to 46.” (B)
“We are arguably as vulnerable—or more vulnerable—to another pandemic as we were in 1918. Today top public health experts routinely rank influenza as potentially the most dangerous “emerging” health threat we face. Earlier this year, upon leaving his post as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden was asked what scared him the most, what kept him up at night. “The biggest concern is always for an influenza pandemic…[It] really is the worst-case scenario.” So the tragic events of 100 years ago have a surprising urgency—especially since the most crucial lessons to be learned from the disaster have yet to be absorbed.” (C)
“This is just the seasonal flu we’re talking about. It’s not that big of a deal, right?
It is, actually. Seasonal flu epidemics cause three to five million cases of severe disease each year worldwide, leaving 300,000 to 500,000 dead, according to the World Health Organization. In the US, flu forces 140,000 to 710,000 people into hospitals and causes 12,000 to 56,000 deaths annually. The hardest hit are children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.” (D)
“California is reeling from a particularly severe surge in cases of the flu—with pharmacies running out of medicine, packed emergency rooms and a rising death toll.
State health officials say that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October. That’s compared to three the same time last year, The Los Angeles Times reports.
According to health officials, there’s no region of the state where people were being spared from the flu.
At UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, the emergency room saw more than 200 patients on at least one day, mostly because of the flu…
Though the flu killed three Californians by this time last year, 68 people had died from it by the end of February, according to state data.
Still, many doctors say the recent surge in flu cases have been unusually severe…
National health officials predict the flu vaccine may only be about 32 percent effective this year. But most people in California and the rest of the country are catching a particularly dangerous strain of influenza that the vaccine typically doesn’t work well against.” (E)
“Methodist Dallas Medical Center announced Sunday night that all non-emergency patients were being diverted to other hospitals due to an influx of patients with the flu. (Published Monday, Jan. 8, 2018)
Methodist Dallas Medical Center says they at “critical capacity” and that all non-emergency patients are being re-routed to urgent care facilities or other hospitals so that they can continue to handle emergencies.
The increase in patient load is largely due to an influx of patients with the flu, the hospital said. Methodist Dallas Medical Center said they are still accepting trauma patients and that anyone who arrives at the hospital needing emergency treatment will receive treatment.
“Consistent with federal and state laws, Methodist Dallas Medical Center is currently re-routing non-emergency patients due to high volumes of patients with flu-like symptoms. This measure is so we can still take care of emergency patients such as trauma, stroke, and those transferred by ambulance. We take this very seriously because we want to be able to treat anyone in need anytime.
During the period while Methodist Dallas is re-routing patients, we encourage anyone having non-emergent symptoms to seek care at an urgent care facility or through their primary care physician.” (F)
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Note: This blog shares general information about understanding and navigating the health care system. For specific medical advice about your own problems, issues and options talk to your personal physician.
(A) ‘The problem child of seasonal flu’: Beware this winter’s virus, by HELEN BRANSWELL, https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/08/flu-virus-h3n2/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters&utm_campaign=0db0193a7b-MR&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8cab1d7961-0db0193a7b-150519373
(B) Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
(C) How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America, by John M. Barry, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journal-plague-year-180965222/
(D) Looks like a rough flu season ahead. Here are answers to ALL your flu questions, by Beth Mole, https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/12/this-years-flu-season-is-upon-us-and-it-looks-bad-heres-what-you-should-know/
(E) Severe flu in California brings medicine shortages, kills 27, by Christopher Carbone, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2018/01/07/severe-flu-in-california-brings-medicine-shortages-kills-27.html
(F) Dallas Methodist Hospital at ‘Critical Capacity,’ Re-Route Non-Emergency Flu Patients, https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Dallas-Hospital-Turns-Away-Non-Emergency-Patients-Due-to-Flu-Activity-468264083.html