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Record breaking flu season reaching EPIDEMIC levels

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A typical Tuesday morning in January started off rough for 6-year-old Emily Muth when she started to feel sick. She was diagnosed with the flu and three days later her parents were calling for an ambulance.

This year’s flu season has been far worse than in the past. The reason for this is that this year the flu season involves the H3N2, which is a strain of the influenza A virus that causes more complications and is harder to prevent. This year 90 percent of flu cases involve the H3N2 strain, and the age group that is being hit the hardest is ages 65 and older.

Typically the seasonal flu is caused by the influenza A or B virus and they usually circulate each year. Research has shown, though, that years with the H3 virus tend to be nastier than years with the H1N1 or influenza B virus.

A reason the H3N2 virus is nastier is that it is harder to prevent with a flu shot.

The flu vaccine is designed to protect people against three or four of the most common strains of the A and B viruses for that given year. Researchers make educated guess on which strains and mutations will be in the corresponding year’s flu virus.

As one can see this process is nowhere near perfect, and the vaccine tends to be less effective in the years where the H3N2 virus is circulating.

The reason for its ineffectiveness with this virus is that the H3N2 virus tends to mutate faster than other flu viruses, thus making it harder to create a vaccine that can fend off this virus.

Research done by Edward Belongia, a senior epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin who has studied the vaccine’s effectiveness, found that the vaccines effectiveness was at 33 percent for H3N2 seasons, 54 percent for influenza B type seasons, and 67 percent for H1N1 seasons.

No matter the percentages, doctors still advise citizens to get a vaccine because 33 percent protection is better than no protection. There is also very little risk in getting a flu shot and it carries the potential benefit of avoiding serious illness or hospitalization.

Many students at Seaman High School agree that the flu shot does help prevent getting seriously ill. One of these students is junior Grayson Seevers.

“I do believe that people should get the flu shot every year because it does help, so if you do get a strain of the virus, your body does a more efficient job of fighting it off,” says Seevers.

There are, however, some students who don’t believe that the vaccine is that effective or that it has helped them.

“I would say no just because I typically don’t get the shot,” says junior Kaitlyn McPherson. “But when I have gotten the shot I usually have gotten sick, so for me it hasn’t really seemed like it has helped.”

No matter the fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the flu vaccine for any year is the single best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Emily Muth is one of the 30 children who have lost their battle with the flu this season, compared to 10 by this time last flu season. Emily, sadly, did not get a flu vaccine this year that could have saved her life.

For more information on the influenza virus or the influenza vaccine visit https://www.vox.com/2018/1/12/16882622/flu-season-epidemic-prevention-vaccine or visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm.

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Record breaking flu season reaching EPIDEMIC levels