As “flu season” draws to a close, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that another may be just beginning.
The dominant A-strain H3N2 influenza virus seems to be dying out, in good news for the young and old alike. But while we have weathered yet another year against a microscopic enemy which constantly threatens to evolve beyond our ability to inhibit with vaccination, the CDC says we are not out of the woods just yet.
According to the Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report published for the week ending March 17, a secondary or “B-strain” of the flu grew significantly in reported cases, despite an overall decline in flu activity across the country. Almost 58% of all reported cases were caused by the typically less dangerous — but still very serious — cousins of our immunological foe.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund advised caution. “We know that illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A,” Nordlund said. “We also know that influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children.”
Still, this second wave is not entirely unexpected, according to Nordlund. “We often see a wave of influenza B during seasons when influenza A H3N2 was the predominant virus earlier in the season,” she said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what the influenza B wave will look like.”
Nearly a quarter-million people have been confirmed as flu victims this year, and 133 children have already perished in the 2017-2018 season alone.
Of course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to advise the public to vaccinate. It remains the best guarantor against infection and supports the “herd immunity” that protects our most vulnerable citizens, from the very young to the very old.