The severity of the upcoming influenza season depends on H1N1 strain that claimed 13,000 deaths during 2009 pandemic and has made an appearance each flu season since then. Many individuals have developed immunity to the strain but if the strain has mutated to a contagious, deadly strain then a pandemic can occur according to health officials. The biggest question this season is whether the H1N1 changed has stated by Rick Zimmerman, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Family Medicine. Zimmerman explained that if the strain has changed to one that resembles the pandemic of 2009, there is a serious concern about a flu outbreak. Zimmerman admits that he is “anxious to see what happens.”
Health officials and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention are recommending individuals to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccines are available by the latest in October to reduce risk. There are a couple of drug stores that are advertising that they have the vaccine.
The CDC recommends the live attenuated nasal spray vaccine for children ages 2 to 8 and the quadrivalent injected vaccine for everyone older. Some officials are recommending the high-dose trivalent vaccine for people 65 and older since it is believed that it is more effective for that age group. Amesh A. Adalja of the UPMC Center for Health Security and Member of the Public Health Committee of the Infectious Disease society stated that the CDC does not recommend that vaccine for the elderly. Adalja recently presented a lecture on the flu focusing on the treatments and trends to doctors.
This year’s vaccine is identical to last year’s vaccine with a focus on H1N1 and a less virulent but persistent H3N2 along with the two strains of Yamagata and Victoria lineages, but the mutated version of H1N1 is what the health officials fear the most. Health officials fear that the H1N1 strain that caused the pandemic in 1918 may return. The pandemic of 1918 killed 675,000 Americans. Dr. Adalja said that back then, the population was 103 million which translated to one in every 153 people dying mostly from pneumonia and other complications.
Dr. Adalja recommended prescribing Tamiflu as soon as flu symptoms are noticed. He advised that even if symptoms are not present until 48 hours, it is best to prescribe Tamiflu. People become contagious one day before the symptoms become noticeable.