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Flu season is upon us
What we can learn from past seasons

10/05/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Last year’s flu season was one of the worst on record for New Hampshire in terms of mortality, and while it’s too early to say with certainty, some early signs indicate this season might be similar in its severity.

 
Deadly strains
Influenza season runs from October through May and is most active from  December through February or March. The peak of the season is in January or early February.
According to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services on the 2016-2017 season, there were 47 influenza-related deaths. Of those, 45 were adults and two were children.
Beth Daly, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, said that was one of the deadliest seasons on record, and it was likely attributable to the strain of influenza that circulated.  
“Last year, influenza A H3 was the predominant strain that circulated and, when that particular strain circulates, we typically do have more severe influenza seasons,” Daly said.
Still, the death reporting process isn’t perfect, she said. Public health officials rely heavily on death certificates that mention influenza. And they combine influenza with pneumonia to create a fuller picture of the problem.
“Typically as many as 10 percent of all deaths during the winter are due to pneumonia or influenza in a given week,” Daly said.
In a typical year, Daly said influenza can be accounted for about 10 to 20 deaths. But there have been a number of years where deaths reached the 40s, all of which were driven by the A H3 strain. That strain was predominant in the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 seasons as well.
Nationally, health officials do their best to target the likely strains in vaccines that include an array of viruses. 
One case of influenza has been detected so far in New Hampshire, according to Daly. 
“So far we only have one detection and it is an A H3, but that doesn’t mean anything because it’s only one,” Daly said. “Obviously, we’re going to keep our eye closely on that and we’ll know better once we get more specimens in our laboratory as people start to test positive for it.”
She said officials will have a clearer picture of the predominant strains around December.
 
Prevention
The best way to protect yourself and those around you from infection is to get vaccinated, and the earlier, the better.
“Now is a great time for people to get vaccinated,” Daly said.
Vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months or older, and especially people from vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children and folks with immune system deficiencies or conditions like asthma, which would be exacerbated by flu symptoms.
For those healthy young adults who may think the vaccine isn’t for them, Daly said the disease can still prove fatal to healthy adults. At the least, it can be debilitating and hospitalization can force people to lose work.
It’s also prudent to get vaccinated so you don’t transfer the illness to others who are more vulnerable, she said. 





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