The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the deadliest in recent decades, as an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. While there is still time left in flu season, so far, the reported flu cases across the country are much lower.
Dr. Deborah McMahan, the Health Commissioner from the Allen County Department of Health, says the decrease is mainly thanks to a more familiar virus being the dominant strain,”The dominant strain last year was a new one in H3N2 strain. That really caused pretty severe disease in pretty much everybody. This year it is back to the H1N1, that we are all familiar with, from the 2009 pandemic flu. So that’s been the dominant strain this year and cases have been a lot milder.”
Last year the vaccine was prepared in anticipation of the H3N2 strain being dominant, but a mutation in the virus potentially led to higher numbers of flu cases. “Last year though I think what happened was a little bit unique. They thought it was going to be the H3N2 but it mutated again after the vaccine was made, and that slight mutation allowed it to be a little bit more severe and the vaccine to not be quite as effective as it normally would be.”said Dr. McMahan.
While cases are down from last year, the Indiana State Department of Health most recent report has high and widespread flu activity across the state. You can find a link to the latest information from the CDC here.
Dr. McMahan said the lower number of cases is a welcomed sight for everyone,”I think a return back to our previous dominate strain is really giving everybody, patients and healthcare a break, a much needed break. Last year was not only more intense, more more cases, but the season was months long, we had a steady season for months. This year’s just been like I said a much needed respite for everyone involved.”
There is still time left in flu season, so as always make sure to wash your hands and if you are sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading of illness.