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The Flu Is Back! Should You Still Be Careful?

Are you aware that the flu is back? In truth, it never went away! But the CDC implied it was going away. Not so fast. How long will it last?

A few weeks ago the CDC reported that influenza cases were dropping. Then last Friday an “updated” report suggested that trend had reversed, and the flu is back. Of course it never really went away!

To quote the feds:

“• Seasonal influenza activity remains elevated nationally with increases in some parts of the country.

• Outpatient respiratory illness has been above baseline nationally since November and is above baseline in all 10 HHS regions.”

If The Flu Is Back…What Strains Are Dominating?

Most of this year’s flu viruses are influenza A. That’s not good news because type A flu is usually worse than influenza B. The ratio is roughly 79% type A to 21% type B. Remember that ratio. You will learn why that’s important momentarily.

More to the point, the H3N2 strain is taking off. Earlier in the season influenza A(H1N1) dominated. Last week, though, A(H3N2) had climbed to 40% of cases tested. Again, the H3N2 strain of influenza has often been more challenging.

Who is Suffering?

This is not rocket science. Older people (those over 65) are suffering the most. Young children are also the most vulnerable. The CDC reports 65 pediatric deaths so far during the 2023-2024 flu season.

The agency then goes on to estimate:

“…that there have been at least 20 million illnesses, 230,000 hospitalizations, and 14,000 deaths from flu so far this season.”

I am going to go way out on a limb and state that I believe those estimates are unreliable. How the CDC estimates hospitalizations and deaths from influenza is, in my opinion, a guessing game.

Because this federal agency does not actually verify how many people die directly from influenza, I think this is an exaggeration. That’s just my opinion, mind you. But I would love to learn exactly how the number crunchers at the CDC come up with their estimates based on relatively low numbers of confirmed influenza cases.

If the Flu is Back…How Long Will It Last?

Back in December, I provided readers of this newsletter with some predictions based upon the Australian model:

“Remember Australia!

“We have been warning that Americans could be facing a bad 2023/24 flu season since last June. That’s because the Aussies had a bad flu season six months earlier. In August we urged public health officials, businesses and individuals to “Improve Indoor Air Quality to Fight COVID and Flu.”

“Very few people were interested in air filtration. It was summer and infections were down. How many businesses have installed HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) or MERV 13 air filters? Here is a photograph that I took at a high-end hotel/restaurant a few months ago.

Used air filters from a public establishment

Used air filters from a public establishment

“These are not high-efficiency used air filters. They are also filthy.

“In a ‘normal flu season’ in Australia, people start getting really sick in mid-July. By the end of September influenza is mostly gone.

“In 2023, however, the flu started showing up in April and lasted until October. The worst of the influenza outbreaks were in early June and continued for two months until early August. That tells me we could be in for it over the next two months.

“There is another reason I think the most recent influenza update is following the Australian pattern. The public health authorities there were reporting that most (80%) of their flu cases were influenza A H3N2. The CDC is reporting influenza A represents 79.9% of cases in the US. There was more H1N1 reported last week than H3N2, but we suspect that by Friday, the FLUVIEW report will show that H3N2 is climbing. As the data come in, I will do my best to provide you an influenza update.”

The Flu is Back…and H3N2 Is Indeed Climbing!

Fast forward to February 8. My predictions have pretty much come true…so far. H3N2 is indeed climbing, just as it did in the land of OZ.

The Lucira COVID-19 & Flu Home Test is back in stock at Amazon. It’s not cheap ($40). It’s also available at Walgreens for the same price.

Is it worth it to know if you have influenza? Well, there are antiviral drugs that help a little if taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. You may want to read one of the articles we have written on some alternative approaches, including elderberry extact and astragalus. The CDC anticipates that oral antiviral medicine will continue to work against common strains of flu virus.

How Much Longer Will Influenza Last This Season?

During a normal flu season in Australia, people start getting sick in July. By the end of September, the flu is pretty much gone. That’s their winter. So, figure about three months. But last year, the flu season lasted roughly six months.

If we follow a somewhat similar pattern, I am guessing that we could still be seeing cases of influenza through April. That’s because the flu started showing up in in North American in November.

Final Words:

I do not understand why the CDC has placed all its bets on vaccinations and antiviral drugs. Why not start encouraging public health officials to improve air ventilation and filtration in public buildings? We have written about Florence Nightingale. She talked about the importance of improving air quality in the 19th century!

When will our public health authorities start paying attention to her message? Would you like to know if the supermarket, pharmacy or restaurant you visit has good ventilation and uses HEPA or MERV 13 air filters? What about carbon dioxide detectors? Shouldn’t such facilities let patrons know the quality of the air they are circulating? Please share your own thoughts about influenza and air quality in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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