The flu season continues to be brutal for the third straight week. The virus has killed 37 children in the U.S. so far, and around 12,000 people have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, about how this flu season compares to what doctors and health officials have seen in the past.
On there being more than one strain of flu this season
“There’s more than one strain, and of course the flu virus can mutate. But the H3N2 strain, which is the dominant strain this year, actually produces more severe disease than did the H1N1 strain back [in 2009], particularly among older people, and we’re discovering among millennials and also very young children. So it’s not age-specific — it’s an all-age virus.”
On whether flu season has peaked
“It’s peaked in some parts of the country, but in middle Tennessee where I am, we’re going gangbusters with flu. So we’re in for an influenza season that will go well into February and likely into March, so this is gonna be a long and hard influenza season.”
On getting your flu shot, and whether getting one now will be effective
“The flu shot is not perfect. It can’t protect against all cases of influenza, but even if you get flu, your illness is going to be milder. You’re less likely to get the complications. It is late, but it’s not too late. But run, do not walk, to get your influenza vaccine, and bring everyone in the family along with you.”
On taking Tamiflu
“Actually, Tamiflu can — if taken early — reduce the duration of the illness by a day, maybe half a day. But it can also make it less likely that you’ll get the complications of pneumonia and have to be hospitalized. So that’s particularly worthwhile for people who have underlying illnesses and those who are over age 65.”