Dominant strain identified to have caused death in high numbers
Even though the flu season took off earlier than expected, it is not too late to get vaccinated against the influenza virus, according to an expert at the Influenza Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
According to Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and pediatrics at BCM, the influenza A, H3N2 strain is the dominant virus in circulation this winter.
“In most years when influenza A, H3N2 is the predominant virus, there are a very high number of deaths from influenza, in particular, in older adults,” said Piedra.
Piedra also emphasizes that every year can be a bad influenza year for children, who are more likely to get sick from the virus than any other group in the community. School-aged children are also likely to spread the virus to their classmates and to their family at home.
Influenza can be prevented, and the best way to do so is annual vaccination against the virus. Everyone six months of age and older are recommended to get the vaccine, which helps provide direct benefit to the vaccinated person as well as indirect benefit to the community by reducing the spread of the virus.
There are two types of vaccines for the virus: the live attenuated vaccine, which is administered by spray into the nose, and the inactivated vaccine, which is administered by injection into the muscle of the arm or thigh. The nasal spray is approved for individuals two to 49 years old and the injection is approved for all individuals six months and older.
“Children should never receive aspirin when they have respiratory infections like a cold, influenza-like illness, influenza infection or during the first two weeks after vaccination with the live attenuated influenza vaccine,” said Piedra.
If someone is experiencing flu-like symptoms, they should consult with their physician to get the appropriate medications to treat the infection.
“These anti-influenza drugs have to be started early in the illness for best benefit,” said Piedra.