Flu Season

Isabel Yang and Keva Li

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The flu has been knocking students out cold from school these past weeks with a high fever, headaches, sore throat, runny nose, chills, and vomiting, leaving everyone in search for the cure. But, is the flu vaccination a solution for protecting healthy students from this illness?

Although the most recommended way to protect yourself against flu is a vaccination with the annual strain, it does not cure all. Depending on the closeness of the match between the season’s viruses and the vaccines, the shot’s effectiveness varies from year to year and is reformatted each year. With temperatures plummeting down low this winter, the vaccination performance was extremely low causing more vulnerability to the virus. With more people vulnerable to this particular strain, there is an increased spike in hospitalization and deaths.

Most flu viruses contain inactivated flu viruses that are grown in chicken eggs. In many cases, flu viruses that are spread among humans may not grow well in chicken eggs, such as the H3N2 virus, which has been well adapted to the human host. When grown in chicken eggs, the virus is better suited to the egg environment, and may lessen the targeted response in humans. Earlier studies from Canada have found that the 2018 flu shot was 17 percent effective against the viral strain, H3N2. In addition, a mutation in the H3N2 strain means that the vaccination did not have immunity against the H3N2 viruses. Typically, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that immunization reduces the risk of the flu by 40 to 60 percent during seasons when flu viruses are matched to the flu vaccine. Generally older people will have lower immune responses after vaccination because they tend to have weaker immune systems. Currently, pharmaceutical companies are producing flu vaccine virus in mammalian cells to avoid the previous egg host problem. Using cell-based technology, new flu vaccines will be able to facilitate a faster response and may offer better protection. However, research is needed to support this claim.

The easy nature of spreading the flu, especially warrants many prevention measures. People with the flu can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, or talking, and spread up to six feet away and infect people for up to a week.  Stay away from those who are contagious and wash hands often with soap and water. Getting the flu shot is recommended because the vaccine may reduce severity of symptoms.