Influenza Remains A Threat Unaddressed: 500 Thousand People Hospitalized Every Year

Posted on May 20 2016 - 9:47pm by Maggie Martin


Influenza causes seasonal epidemics in the United States almost every winter. There are three types of Influenza and Human influenza A and B viruses are the usual culprits behind epidemics.  Based on two proteins (Hemagglutinin and neuraminidase) on the surface of the virus, Influenza A is divided into two categories. However, the classification of viruses can still be narrowed down because there are nearly18 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes. Influenza B viruses are not divided into subtypes, but can be further broken down into lineages and strains.

By statistics, it is understood seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, sometimes until May. The Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and diarrhea. If left untreated, there are good chance patients may develop life-threatening pneumonia.

Antiviral drugs are used in the treatment of flu. Usually prescribed by physicians, antiviral drugs come in the form of pills, liquid, an inhaled powder, or an intravenous solution. Antiviral drugs reduce the effect of symptoms and shorten the time of sickness by 1 or 2 days.  It is better to be treated faster than later which could lead to hospitalization of the patient. Some of the well-known antiviral drugs are Tamiflu (generic name:  oseltamivir), Relenza (generic name zanamivir), and Rapivab (generic name: peramivir).

People with high risk of flu are patients suffering from asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, blood disorders, chronic lung disease, endocrine disorders, Heart disease, kidney disorders, liver disorders, metabolic disorders and also people taking aspirin therapy.

People with these conditions are often recommended to take flu vaccines; there are two different kinds of vaccines currently in use – traditional flu vaccines made to protect against three different flu viruses and flu vaccines made to protect against four different flu viruses. The vaccines come in the form of nasal sprays and shots.

In 2016, CDC admitted that influenza vaccine packaged as a nasal spray failed to protect children from the 2009 H1N1 strain. A number of studies that were published before CDC said flu shots are ineffective in protecting children and adults.

Between 5% and 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Since 2010, the flu has caused 5,300 to 39,000 deaths a year and as many as half a million annual hospitalizations, according to the CDC. It was earlier estimated that flu vaccines prevented close to 40,000 flu-associated deaths during the nine-year period from 2005 to 2014.

In April 2016, two people in Yellowstone County have died from H1N1 influenza; the death comes several days after a third-grade student at Poly Drive Elementary School died from what health experts said was complications from the virus.


About the Author

Maggie Martin is completing her PhD in Cell Biology, works as a lab tech for and contributes content on Biotech, Life Sciences, and Viral Outbreaks. Follow on Twitter @MaggieBiosource