This year’s flu season may be more deadly than usual and this year’s flu vaccine is a relatively poor match to the viruses that are now circulating, federal health officials warned on Thursday.
“Flu is unpredictable, but what we’ve seen thus far is concerning,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The C.D.C. has alerted doctors to the problem and has urged them to prescribe antiviral drugs like Tamiflu to vulnerable patients with flu symptoms without waiting for a positive flu test.
The season has only just begun, but 91 percent of the approximately 1,200 samples tested thus far are of the H3N2 subtype of influenza A, Dr. Frieden said. Almost all the rest were influenza B. There were almost no samples of the H1 subtype, a descendant of the 2009 “swine flu” strain.
Years in which H3 subtypes are more common than H1 subtypes tend to lead to more hospitalizations and deaths, he added.
Moreover, about half of those H3 subtypes — or about 45 percent of all the samples tested so far — are of a new H3 subtype that this season’s flu vaccine does not protect well against.
I’m still amazed at the number of people I run into who think an annual flu shot takes completely takes care of them for the year. Still, protecting against what one can is probably better than going full Jenny McCarthy on medicine.
You never want to go full Jenny McCarthy.