News about the Flu Vaccine for 2013 – 2014 Flu Season

Flu season this year came with a will to fight the most modern flu vaccine. Vaccines have been reported to have failed several people around the world. But the numbers are not enough to generally consider the vaccine to be ineffective. Health reports have shown that people who had the vaccine still experience flu symptoms. However, these symptoms disappeared before doctors can declare that the patient really had flu.

But another set of numbers show a different story. The overall efficacy rate of the flu vaccine is at 59%, based on the study conducted by the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy of the University of Minnesota. This means that the vaccine has a 41 percent failure rate. When we consider risks and probability, getting the flu shot today is just the same as keeping yourself healthy and getting enough sleep. In other words, you do not have to get the shot to protect yourself during flu season.

Another statistics shows the efficacy rate of the vaccine to be around 56 percent, except when the patient is 60 years old and above. This is based on actual people who took the vaccine before the 2012-2013 flu season. It seems that actual efficacy rate is lower than the theoretical one.

The Need to Improve the Flu Vaccine

The poor efficacy rate of this year’s flu vaccine is a compelling reason to start reworking the approach into dealing with the influenza virus next year. One can easily reject it as a flu vaccine when you consider its failure rate and how it is not capable of stopping all strains of the virus. The CDC is now planning to have a four-component flu vaccine that is expected to stop 4 strains of the flu virus. These are H1N1, H3N2, the 2 strains of influenza A and influenza B.

These are the 4 predominant strains of the flu virus known today which will prevent any possible H1N1 and H3N2 scare. The H1N1 virus is the most popular strain since it is responsible for 4 historical flu outbreaks: the Spanish Flu, the Russian Flu, the outbreak in Fort Dix and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. So the latest vaccine will be the most powerful one based on the number of flu viruses that it supposed to stop. Testing for the efficacy is much easier now. However, there is also the aspect of safety. This new vaccine is more potent which means it can also have far worse side-effects than the previous vaccine.

The efficacy of the flu vaccine is also dependent on the time period required for the antivirus to spread through the body. This is why CDC started administering the vaccine this month to give the antivirus 30 days time to circulate throughout the immune system of each American.

Flu Vaccine’s Constant Wall

The only problem with the current plan is that it will have nothing for any new strains of the virus during 2013 – 2014’s flu season. The CDC is hoping that there will no such occurrence but the possibility of the current strains of flu viruses to mutate is still there. And just like the past flu seasons, health officials are expecting mutant flu viruses that will have resistance to the latest vaccine.

For this year’s flu season, the latest vaccine will receive its true and toughest test as more and more people take it in preparation for October, the month when flu season starts in North America. CDC is expecting the vaccine to be far more successful than the one used last year. Officials are hoping to have an increase in efficacy of at least 20% or an overall efficacy rate of 79%.

This is a very ambitious goal considering the factors that will affect the vaccine’s efficacy. Virus mutation is the worst enemy since it can render the vaccine completely use on that strain of the flu virus.

The Issue with the Seniors

Another factor that can through a huge curve ball on the flu vaccine is the elderly. Last year’s vaccine had a terrible efficacy rate on senior citizens, an embarrassing 27 percent. But against stronger strains of the virus, the efficacy rate drop further down to 9 percent. This also led to a significant number of flu related fatalities on this age group during last year’s flu season.

However, health officials claim that the primary culprit is the significant decline of the body’s immune system when it reaches 60 years old and above. The vaccine may be able to stop to virus from multiplying but it is unable to stop the flu symptoms which can trigger other illnesses.

The elderly should still take the flu vaccine since it is still considered the best defense against the dreaded influenza virus according to the health experts.

 

2013 Flu Season Updates in the South Hemisphere

Flu Season in Australia and New Zealand

The flu season is heading towards its last month in the southern hemisphere. But there are reports of delayed influenza season in

All about the flu / flu season 2013/2014

All about the flu / flu season 2013/2014

several countries in the south. In Australia, there is evidence that the flu season has just started for several states. One is Canberra. Paul Kelly, Chief Health Officer of ACT confirmed last August 12 that the flu seasons in Canberra just started. Last year, flu season peaked in the middle of July. Eastern Australia also experienced a delayed flu season. Cases of flu were first reported in the first week of August and are not expected to peak anytime this month of September.

The odd thing observed is that other areas had an early flu season. In New South Wales, the flu season started earlier and peaked on the month of August.  There were also scattered reports of flu cases since January but the numbers are too few to be considered a sign of the flu season. Overall analysis shows that the 2013 flu season for Australia will be a slow one.

Despite the delay of the flu season in Australia, New Zealand is expected to reach the end of its flu season as the country enters spring. The country has an early flu season, at the very start of winter. However, there was reported late flu surge in Wellington reported last August 30 which made the Regional Public Health office on red alert this week for any changes in the situation. Health officials have officially declared it as a flu outbreak and warned Wellington citizens to watch out for symptoms.

This sudden spike in flu season activity in New Zealand has baffled medical experts. They still consider it as a late flu surge due to the effect of temperature change on the virus. However, official expert findings shows that warm weather have no significant effect on flu infection. So the cause for the late flu outbreak is still a mystery.

 

 Flu Season in South Africa

The same is true for South Africa. The flu season officially started last May and is expected to reach its last “hurrah” this September. It is also observed that the strain of the virus that affected the region is predominantly the H1N1 or influenza A which already have an effective vaccine. There are also cases of H3N3 cases but it is significantly lesser in numbers that those who were infected by H1N1.

All nine provinces in South Africa experience the onslaught of the flu season. But the most affected province is Gauteng with over 600 cases of the flu infection, the highest number in all provinces. North West had the least number reported which is just 7 cases of flu infection. The local health officials also needed to deal with the hoax that spread last July about swine flu infecting people in the region. Although the number of cases has dropped significantly since week 27, the number of flu infection remains consistent from week 28 to week 33. And this time most of the infections are caused by the H3N3 virus.

There is still no sign of the flu season ending in South Africa. But the current trend is saying that it is in its late stage. The number of cases is expected to drop further in the weeks to come. For now health officials are observing the behavior of the H3N3 flu strain.

 

Flu Season in South America

In South America, the flu season is officially over according to the World Health Organization. There were no cases of flu infection reported since week 32. It peaked in South America during weeks 26 to 27. Number of flu cases significantly dropped in the succeeding weeks. Week 33 and 34 showed no additional cases of people getting sick from any of the influenza strains, even from the very common H1N1 virus.

This information is telling us that the flu season is at its end in the southern hemisphere. The only notable exception is Australia due to the late onset of the flu season and the slow activity of influenza in the country. There is still no concrete explanation for this phenomenon but health officials are confident that the preparations they have will still work. The only issue is that this could lead to an extended flu season that could very well peak in the middle of spring or even continue to early summer.

 

Conclusion

Australians are advised to take the flu vaccine to increase their protection from the virus. The slow activity should not be taken as a sign that flu season this year will have insignificant effect compared to last year. This will also help prevent sudden flu epidemics in areas with small to zero case of reported incidents. This is to prevent scenarios like that one happened in Wellington, New Zealand. Schools are good places for the virus to spread fast since a lot of young people mingle with each other. An infected student can easily cause an outbreak if the other students are vulnerable.