girl with cold, this year's flu, coming flu season

Experts are warning that the coming flu season could be a doozy. That’s because Australia is just wrapping up their winter with a dreadful influenza experience. Compared to last year, there were far more cases and they were more severe. North America often follows a similar pattern.

How Australia’s Experience Might Foretell the Coming Flu Season:

One possible reason that more people in Australia caught the flu is that the vaccine might have been less effective than normal. In a typical season, the flu shot works about 40 percent of the time. But preliminary analysis suggests that this year’s vaccine was only 15 to 20 percent effective.

Americans will be depending upon the same influenza vaccine that was used in Australia. Researchers have not yet determined whether the vaccine is a good match for the circulating flu strains.

Avoiding the Flu:

Flu Shots:

We have written about influenza vaccination here and here. Public health officials assert that getting vaccinated is the best protection against the flu. They also urge people to be super-conscientious about hand-washing. That’s good advice, but neither tactic is guaranteed to prevent an influenza infection.

Antiviral Medicine:

There are antiviral medicines such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) that can shorten the amount of time a person suffers from flu symptoms. These drugs can also be used to prevent the flu if someone else in the household has become ill.

Vitamin D:

Sometimes vitamin D supplements are recommended to help prevent influenza. Unfortunately, a recent study from Canada did not show any advantage of high-dose vitamin D supplements over the basic dose of 400 IU in warding off flu (Aglipay et al, JAMA, July 18, 2017). That said, it is important not to become deficient.

Zinc:

Don’t become deficient in zinc, either. Scientists know that zinc is important in the immune system’s defense against flu (Fu et al, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Apr. 3, 2017). The connection is more complicated than just taking a zinc supplement, but it is still worth keeping zinc in mind.

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  1. JBG
    IL
    Reply

    The reason the higher dose of vitamin D was no better for the little kids in the referenced study is that both groups had a good blood level of vitamin D:

    “At study termination, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were 48.7 ng/mL (95% CI, 46.9-50.5 ng/mL) in the high-dose group and 36.8 ng/mL (95% CI, 35.4-38.2 ng/mL) in the standard-dose group.”

    Anything over 35, or even 32, is probably good enough. Lots of people have levels below 20, especially in flu season. 2000 IU of vitamin D a day will do those folks plenty of good (although there is lots of variability, and the right thing is to get the level checked a couple times a year).

  2. Don
    Ohio
    Reply

    Don’t they always say it’s going to be a terrible flu season? More profit for the pharma companies.

  3. Betty
    Texas
    Reply

    Have others had side effects from this year’s over 65 vaccine? Both my husband and I as well as my sister-in-law in California felt achy, tired, and had joint pain for several days after getting the shot. Just curious…

    • sherry
      Reply

      I had similar issues for only for a day.

  4. Kathleen
    New Mexico
    Reply

    Is it wise for a 55 yr old in otherwise “good” health to receive a flu shot if she has been flagged as being low in white blood cells and neutrafils? (told at risk for autoimmune illness)

  5. Anna
    BC
    Reply

    Using Oregano oil each day sometimes 2-3 times a day if I have been in contact with the flu virus can help to ward off the flu in many cases. I use it even for a stuffy nose and sneezing . Staying well rested during flu season is important and taking vitamins especially vit C and Zinc every hour or 2 can ward off the virus if feeling tired . Anything you can do to strengthen the immune system is worth it

  6. Robin
    Reply

    A very simple, safe, and effective strategy that is not discussed here often is the use of nasal saline rinses. I use the NeilMed gentle bottle type, with their pre-made saline powder packs, that is very easy to use once you get the hang of it. Rinsing your nasal passages with saline every day, not only helps to protect against airborne illnesses, it helps soothe irritated sinuses.

  7. Grandma
    Reply

    WMy Doctor is giving a double dose of flu vaccine.

    • Grandma
      Reply

      MY Doctor is giving a DOUBLE DOSE of flu vaccine as last year the single dose didn’t work for some seniors.

  8. Candace
    Florida
    Reply

    I am no longer able to have a flu shot due to a reaction I had last year. I am so stressed about being exposed to the flu this season. I have health problems that would be made much worse if I get the flu. I plan on staying home as much as possible and limiting my exposure.

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