Friday, April 17, 2015

Flu season 2014-15 more severe, winding down

(Story by Madelyn Kinyon)

This year’s flu season may be nearing an end and seemed to be somewhat more severe than last year’s, a Reid physician said.

Tom Huth, M.D., Reid Vice President/Medical Affairs, said that the incidents of flu seen at Reid peaked in late December, though he noted that it’s still possible to get the flu. “It is very important to use good hygiene. Typically the main transmission route is the transfer of live virus from surfaces or handshakes. However, even at this point in the season, it may be beneficial to get vaccinated if you are in an age group that is at high risk,” Huth said.

This year, there was a different predominant Influenza A virus: H3N2. Influenza A is usually an upper respiratory illness with cough, congestion, muscle aches and high fever. Huth said that while this season’s vaccine did contain the H3N2 strain, the virus may have undergone enough genetic change that the vaccine was not as effective as it was designed to be.

The 2013-14 season was mild with about 350 cases, Huth said. This year he tracked about 600 cases. “We had many more cases in the older age group, which led back to the typical pattern with more severity of illness and a higher number of cases in the very young and the very old age groups,” Huth said.

According to Huth, this year’s flu season is close to its end though in the last month there has been a mild increase in Influenza B cases, which tends to have more gastrointestinal symptoms. In a typical year, influenza case numbers peak and then trail off over a long period of time, usually lasting well into April.

The vaccine offers protection from a potentially severe outcome. It can be obtained inexpensively at physician offices and county health clinics.

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