Why the Flu Outbreak is Even Worse Than We Thought

Most of us are familiar with the flu and what consequences it brings, but this season’s strain has the United States in a panic, and reasonably so. Bill Hutchinson from The Washington Post, wrote that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that 14,676 people have been hospitalized with influenza since the flu season began in October, double the number from last year and is the highest ever recorded. As of January 27, the CDC has reported 53 child deaths from the flu this season and number will likely increase.

    

Image via Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

ABC News has stated that the flu has not yet reached epidemic proportions, according to last week’s CDC data, but it may happen soon as the number of people who died from the flu this year is only 0.2 percent below the CDC’s threshold. While the threshold is usually passed, it is sometimes more than expected.

Now, what makes this season’s strain so serious? The answer to that question is the mutated H3N2 strain. Flu viruses mutate every year by changing their surface proteins, so it’s common to see multiple types during the same time period. The second reason H3N2 has been so pervasive is that people have less exposure to it. When the same flu strain strikes repeatedly, people and thus regions tend to build up immunity.

The third reason this year's flu has been so bad is complications with the vaccine. Most influenza vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, and when this year's vaccine was being incubated, the virus mutated while it was growing and became less effective. Although the flu may seem inescapable, washing your hands and staying healthy to your best ability will most certainly help you stay safe during this season.