With Influenza season just beginning across much of the U.S., health experts are warning the country may not be prepared for a major outbreak of the virus.
The Association of Health Care Journalists reports:
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that “in general, we get in our season what the Southern Hemisphere got in the season immediately preceding us and an intelligent guess” is that North America will most likely have a bad flu season.
Further, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, influenza chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press that: “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but there’s a chance we could have a season similar to Australia.”
The warnings come as the CDC began its annual campaign to encourage Americans to get their flu shots before the virus begins spreading during the fall and winter. About 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening respiratory complications. Adults 65 and older, children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are among those that are the most at risk. In the 2016-17 flu season, which was described as a “moderate,” more than 600,000 were hospitalized due to complications from the flu, said Jernigan. Since 2010, 200,000 to 710,000 people have been hospitalized annually due to the flu, and 12,000 to 56,000 died each year too, according to the CDC.
“Influenza is an unpredictable infectious disease,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “I like to say flu is fickle. I am often asked ‘how severe will the season be?’ It will be severe and it will always be severe. Flu vaccination is our first and best line of defense to prevent flu.”
The report also states that based on early data from Australia, which is just emerging from its flu season, the influenza vaccine this year may not be effective in combating the virus.