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. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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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