Flu season is, for most of us, one of those indignities that we just have to put up with. Even the hardiest of us are probably going to wind up spending at least a couple of days sacked out with a thermometer in our mouths watching mindless TV. Work on a cure is happening, but slowly — so in the meantime, we get the vaccine and go about our days.
One problem, though; this year’s vaccine hasn’t been working. Australia just wrapped up its flu season, and the report, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, is not great. In particular, this year’s flu vaccine crop is not delivering the needed results, because it apparently is immunizing us against the wrong kind of flu:
Reports from Australia have caused mounting concern, with record-high numbers of laboratory-confirmed influenza notifications and outbreaks and higher-than-average numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated, and the preliminary estimate of vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) was only 10%. The implications for the Northern Hemisphere are not clear, but it is of note that the vaccine for this upcoming season has the same composition as that used in the Southern Hemisphere.
A quick explanation of flu types: There are four, A, B, C, and D. D infects cows, so it’s not something to worry about unless you’re a cattle rancher. C is the milder flu; you will not enjoy its visit, but it won’t kill you. A and B are the nastier customers, A in particular, and are actively dangerous to children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. That A appears to be going on world tour is not good news in the best of years, so that we not only have that coming, we also don’t really have an effective way to control it.
So, what can you do? All the simple germ prevention tips help; wash your hands, stay home if you feel sick, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, and so on. To this, we’ll add, don’t take being sick for granted. If you’re getting the flu, especially if it isn’t going away after a couple of days, it’s time to go see the doctor. Also, SLEEEEEEEP. Sleep heals all. And no matter what, you should still get your flu shot. Just because A is the most common doesn’t mean C isn’t lurking to knock you out.