Viral phenomenon: A rough flu season



Viral Phenomenon: A Rough Flu Season

FLU: A devastating 2017-2018 flu season has claimed many lives and hospitalized thousands.

By Marc Cortes
February 18, 2018

Exactly one hundred years ago, in a world still being torn apart by the War to End All Wars, World War I, five percent of the world’s population died—not from the war itself, but from influenza.

While there are numerous hypotheses about the origin, spread and consequences of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, there is no denying the severity of a virus that infected 500 million people, including about 675,000 Americans, and killed 50 million worldwide.

One factor for the global prevalence of this disease were the conditions of a world at war, with millions of individuals cramped in military camps and urban environments and little to no access antibiotics or anti-viral drugs.

This year’s flu season may not be within the same magnitude of the Spanish Flu pandemic, but it is one of the most severe flu seasons within the past decade. After an entire century, the effects of one of the world’s deadliest pandemics can still teach us how to prevent another one.

With over 12,000 flu-related hospitalizations across the country and 49 states reporting widespread flu activity for a consecutive number of weeks, many health officials say this flu season is the worse the nation has seen since the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

“We often see different parts of the country ‘light up’ at different times, but for the past three weeks, the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu, all at the same time,” -Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, Director of the CDC’s influenza division

This year’s flu season started early, around late October and early November. The death toll from the flu is fast approaching 100 in California alone and has already claimed the lives of over 53 children throughout the nation.

Health officials have stated that the unusually high rates of infection may be caused in part by students returning to school after winter break. With the large number of students and faculty infected with the flu, many schools across the nation have closed their campuses for a few days to disinfect buildings in an attempt to minimize the spread of the virus.

The age group with the highest recorded hospitalizations and mortalities is adults over the age of 64, but adults aged 50-64 and children younger than 5 are categories that are close behind. Those most vulnerable to the flu virus are people with other underlying conditions, like heart disease, respiratory problems, and obesity.

What’s more alarming is that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that there will be many more weeks to come in this deadly flu season and that it hasn’t even peaked yet.

Based on previous flu seasons in America, we may only be a little over halfway through at this point. The CDC estimates that cases of flu will peak in late February.

There are at least four different strains of the flu circulating this season: two A strains, H3N2 and H1N1, and two B strains, Yamagata and Victoria. Having one type of strain will not necessarily protect you from catching another so many are encouraged to remain vigilant in protecting themselves from the flu.

The most common strain of flu this year is H3N2 which is one of the more dangerous strains. This particular strain is very resilient and the flu vaccination is only 30% effective against it. This strain also dominated the flu season of 2014-2015 which the CDC estimated had affected 34 million Americans, hospitalizing 710,000 and killing 56,000.

The majority of health officials strongly urge the public to get a vaccination because although the flu vaccination is not as effective against the dominant strain, it is better to reduce your chances of catching one of the other strains of flu.

Marc Cortes is a writer for the News Department. Currently in his junior year, this is his first year working for The Mirror.

He enjoys a wide range of musical genres, from rap to EDM to Taylor Swift. Marc also passes the time by watching Netflix and YouTube.

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