With tens of thousand of patients flocking to hospitals daily, this year's flu season is shaping up to be the worst in nearly a decade. WAAY 31 wanted to take a look at the different strains of the virus and how they could affect you at home.
We went to three different doctor's offices Monday and no physician was willing to go on camera, the reason being they were swamped with sick patients all day long. Inside of American Family Care, you have to wear a mask just to go inside and this isn't surprising as we are knee deep in the worst flu season doctors haave seen in years. But although many people have gotten their flu shots, they don't know the difference between the two strains that are inside the shot.
Influenza A viruses are the most harmful strain as they can cause severe disease. They're normally passed through animals like wild birds as we saw in the the 2009 bird flu epidemic. Influenza B however almost exclusively infects humans. Strain B is also much harder to vaccinate as it mutates about two to three times more slowly than strain A.
The U.S. flu vaccines are reviewed annually and updated to match the circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines usually protect against three or four viruses, this years shot includes components from H1N1 (strain A), H3N2(strain A), and B/Victoria lineage (strain B).
But flu vaccines aren't perfect. While you are protected there are still strains that could harm you this season. Leaving the question, do you think physicians should tell you which strains your being vaccinated for? Two Hunstville resident had this to say:
"It would probably be helpful, but I think a lot of people would just be confused. To them, the flu is the flu and obviously that's not the case but I think a lot of people have that belief."
"I know the CDC tries to predict what strain will be that year but sometimes they just don't get it right but I still think that you're protected and it's a good thing to take the flu shot."
WAAY 31 did speak off camera to a nurse practitioner who told us this was the worst flu season they had ever seen and that The New England Medical Journal recently came out with a staggering statistic. Only 10% of this year's flu vaccine is affective against strain B, the strain that is causing 80% of this year's flu infections. Even still, physicians still suggest getting the flu shot if you have not done so already.