MISSOULA – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that last year’s flu season was one of the worst in decades, and this year’s season has already started.
The World Health Organization meets every year in September to determine which strain of the virus the Northern Hemisphere will likely be most susceptible to based on what has had the most impact on the population south of the equator.
“We have all the data available to us, so we can kind of look at what is circulating down there and sort of predict what we think we might see here.,” Missoula City-County Health Department Infectious Disease Specialist Pam Whitney said.
Last season’s strain of Type A virus is unique in its ability to adapt, which made the strain hard to stop. That particular strain is also more severe and left hospitals around the country overflowing and vaccinations in short supply.
It also affected more people of all ages and health levels and Whitney says this year holds more promise.
“H3N2 will shift and change frequently, so even though we thought we had a good match, and we did have the H3N2 strain in the vaccine, it changed before the virus even got to the Northern Hemisphere,” Whitney explained.
“Luckily, what’s circulating in the Southern Hemisphere — [where] their season just ended — is what we need, and that’s what’s in the vaccine.,” she added.
Whitney says that, even though the Type A H1N1 influenza strain is not as potent as last year’s variety, it’s still important to get vaccinated — and to do so now.
“If those people had have had the flu shot then they may not have been in the hospital so, and also you can spread the flu without having symptoms. It is possible to do that, so think of protecting other people and not just yourself.,” Whitney said.
She also told MTN News that this is especially important for those with infants younger than six-months-old who are unable to get vaccinated.
The Missoula City-County Health Department has much more information about the flu — as well as where to get vaccinated — on their website.
-Russ Thomas reporting for MTN News