The 2017/18 Flu Season Is Over: Can We Relax Now?
April 27, 2018
The 2017-2018 flu season was a tough one around the world. In the United States, there were over 1 million laboratory-confirmed cases of people with influenza who were admitted to the hospital. Most had influenza A. Experts will never know the true number of people who contracted the flu though, because so many become ill but do not see a doctor. Since flu season in North America generally winds down in March and April, does that mean we can let our guard down now? Not really.
There are three separate flu viruses that infect humans: type A, B, and C. Type A, the strain that made so many people sick this past year, is the harshest influenza virus. It was responsible for the Spanish Flu in 1918, which killed millions of people, and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. Type B can also cause severe complications, like pneumonia, which can lead to sepsis. According to Families Fighting Flu, a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of influenza and the importance of annual flu vaccination, pediatric flu deaths this year were attributable to both types A and B influenza. Type C is generally a milder flu.
Influenza A numbers have been dropping since mid-March, but now doctors are reporting an increase in patients presenting with influenza B. In some cases, people who were sick earlier with type A influenza are becoming ill again with type B. Unfortunately, having one strain of the flu doesn’t make you immune to infection from a different strain.
Some people describe this as a second-wave of the flu. But when the primary virus during flu season is type A, it’s not unusual for it to be followed by a wave of type B strain, so experts aren’t surprised by this. Unfortunately, as the media outreach for flu prevention dies down, flu awareness drops and people may not be as vigilant with prevention.
Because some flu strains are still circulating, experts ask that the population remain vigilant. Flu prevention should include getting your annual influenza vaccine and washing your hands thoroughly and frequently. If you are ill, you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by staying home, coughing or sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand, washing your hands, and disinfecting objects that you share with others.
The flu does have its peaks during flu season, but it can strike year-round. Staying vigilant about flu prevention can lower your risk of becoming ill.