Why around you. Flu viruses are separated into four

Why This Flu Season
is Especially Bad and What You Can Do about It

Have you noticed many people from your family, children’s
classmates, friends, coworkers, and maybe yourself have been getting really sick
the past few months? But before going over why this flu season has been
exceptionally bad this year, it is important to understand how flu works and
why flu shots are so important for you, your family, and everyone around you.

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Flu viruses are separated into four groups, influenza A,
influenza B, influenza C, and influenza D. According to Connor
Bamford, a Virologist from University of Glasgow and Julien Amat, PhD Candidate
also from the same university, “humans can’t catch influenza D (that’s for pigs
and cows), we can be infected with influenza A, B, and C. Public health
officials, however, are less worries about influenza C as it isn’t a major
cause of illness.” Flu strains can be broken down to two major proteins on the
outer layer of the virus, the Hemagglutinin (H) and the Neuraminidase (N). In
our body, these two proteins are always working to protect our immune system by
creating antibodies which protects us from viruses. Your flu vaccine is what
feeds the H and N that supports your body to create antibodies against certain
strains.

 

Scientists are always researching and tracking all the
viruses to create the best vaccine for the year which is why flu vaccine is
required every year to match the always-changing flu strains. This is also why
flu vaccine is not
100% perfect as it is designed to protect “three to four strains of the A
and B viruses that researchers believe will be the most common that year.” Just
like our immune system, flu viruses are constantly mutating and scientists have
to make the best educated guess possible on which strains will be most deadly
in that year. While scientists may not pinpoint the correct strains every
single year, the vaccines do provide moderate protection at minimum, herd
immunity for those that are unable to receive vaccines due to medical,
personal, or religious reasons, and it also saves many lives. Even if you do
get the flu after receiving flu shot, your symptoms will be much milder
compared to not receiving it. Read more about the flu vaccine here.

 

How Does Vaccines
Work?

Vaccines are created to prevent diseases by reducing the
risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses and help it
safely develop immunity to diseases. As the virus invade the body, it
multiplies, which will cause the body to be sick. However, the immune system
works to fight the infection and the body is left with a supply of cells that
help recognize and fight that disease in the future. According to Immunizations
Are for Everyone, vaccines are used to “develop immunity by imitating an
infection, but this “imitation” infection does not cause illness.” Instead, it
helps the immune system to react the same way with real infection so that the
body can create a supply of cells to recognize and protect the body. After
getting the vaccine, the imitation infection can cause common side effects like
fever, dizziness, or headache, which is normal as your body is working hard to
build immunity. Despite the common side effects, it is very important for you
to receive your flu vaccines to decrease the chance of getting the flu. To read
more about flu shots side effects, click
here.

 

H3N2 Strain

The strain that is causing this flu season to be so bad is
the H3N2, which is a strain from influenza A virus that is known to cause more
problems than other flu viruses. H3N2 affects elderlies and children even more
due to weaker immune system for elderly and undeveloped immune system for
children. Couple of reasons why H3N2 is so deadly are because H3N2 mutates at a
faster rate than other viruses which makes it harder to create a vaccine to
stop it, less people have been exposed to H3N2 in the past so many places doesn’t
have enough immunity built up, and according to What
Makes This Flu Season So Bad, “most influenza vaccines are grown in chicken
eggs, and when this year’s vaccine was being incubated, the virus mutated while
it was growing and became less effective.” According to the article,
“scientists think it may only be about 30 percent effective against H3N2.”
Although 30% may not seem much, it is better than having no protection.

 

How to Prevent the
Flu?

The best thing you can do right now is get your flu shot if
you have not done so. The flu season is far from over and it can last into May
so it’s not too late. While this vaccine may be only 30% effective against H3N2
but there are other viruses like H1N1 or influenza B that are getting more
people sick and they can be easily prevented with the vaccine. Also note that
it takes about a week or two for the vaccine to take effect, not right away.
Other than getting your vaccination, the simple things you can do is wash your
hands regularly, cover your mouth when coughing, use a humidifier to kill the
virus faster, and stay home if you are feeling sick at all, not just to help
you recover faster but to prevent the illness from spreading to other people.

 

What to do When You
Catch the Flu

According to Kristina Duda, RN, Most of the typical flu
symptoms include:

Body achesFeverHeadacheSore throatCoughExhaustionMinor congestionVomiting and diarrhea – uncommon, occurs more
frequently in children

 

If you show multiple
symptoms from the list above, go see your doctor to get a diagnosis and
treatment. Your doctor may prescribe you with antiviral medication like Tamiflu
or Relenza which lessens the severity of your symptoms but antiviral
medications are only effective when taken within 48 hours of getting sick. If
you’ve been sick longer than that, your doctor may recommend you to take
over-the-counter medications instead. Stay home, rest, and drink lots of liquid
until you recover. Do not go back to work at least 24 hours after your symptoms
disappear. In children’s case, the school may have a specific policy on how
long kids need to stay at home when they were sick. Once you are better from
the flu, you should still get a flu shot if you haven’t done so. Just because
you already had the flu, it does not mean you are safe from other flus. The
vaccine will give you protection from other strands of flu viruses. You can
read more about what you can do when you have the flu, here.

 

When Am I Contagious?

Doctors universally agree that you are contagious from the
day before your symptom starts showing till about the third day of being sick. Dr.
Daniel Vigil, a physician from UCLA explains “it’s that tickle in your throat
and you’re thinking, ‘I hope this isn’t a cold or the flu coming on.’ That’s
about the time when the contagious period starts.” Although your contamination
rate drops after the third day, it doesn’t mean you are healthy enough to go
back to work or go back to school just yet. Stay home and rest when you have a
fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, your body aches and have the chills, and you
are coughing, sniffling, and sneezing constantly. Read more at SCPR.