It’s that season again, flu season. This flu season seems much worse than normal, but it had been going on almost unheeded, at least until Wednesday, when Boston’s mayor declared a public health emergency. That was enough to energize the media. Almost every news outlet that I saw today had some article about the runaway flu season this year. The facts are, is that there is a widespread influenza outbreak in 41 states. The percentage of people seeing their doctor with flu-like symptoms is at 5.6%. Last year’s peak was only 2.2%. According to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, we are in for the worst flu season in ten years. USA Today reported that the last time the flu hit these levels; it killed 70,000 people.
According to the Post-Dispatch, the vast majority of Saint Louis area flu victims are children. Anne will have spent three days this week at the district’s Early Child Care school. I expect that she will have stories to share. I just hope that she doesn’t bring home anything else to share. Although, one runny nosed gutter snipe coughed right in her face, when Anne told the kid to stop kicking his friend.
Have I frightened you yet? Google is also piling on this story. For the last few years Google has been keeping track of how many people search for flu-like symptoms. Their reasoning is that one would only do this, if you or someone you love has those symptoms. Like every other indicator this year, the Google Flu Trends is showing an unusually large spike. The following chart shows the time history of this year’s Google Flu Trends along with previous years.
Both Anne and I have received our flu shots this season, but there is some question about the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine. The fundamental reason for this concern is the archaic Word War II era medical technology that is used to produce each year’s vaccine. Some time next month, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will chose three strains, from the dozen that are likely candidates, of influenza for incorporation into next year’s vaccine. Chicken eggs will be used to grow the virus and just in time for next years flu season a new vaccine will be available for distribution. The CDC’s problem is that it has to forecast next year’s flu season, almost a year in advance. The CDC is on record that this year’s vaccine is effective and there are still vaccine doses available. If you have not been vaccinated yet, there is still time to get vaccinated. It is both cheap and easy care.