Flu virus continues to spread

Camilla Beutel, Entertainment Editor

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This year’s flu season has been a major issue, causing widespread anguish and uncertainty regarding the flu vaccine. Within the first ten weeks of the flu season, the number of sick people throughout the United States has increased at an alarming level, and the number will continue to grow. A total of fifty-three children have already been killed by the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one out of ever 14 hospital visits during the week of Jan. 21-27 was because of flu-related symptoms. The CDC has also linked the higher number of cases this year to the spread of an influenza variant known as Type A, which is particularly difficult to stop with the flu vaccine. Another Type A subtype is circulating, as is a Type B virus.

Hospitalization rates are notably higher than past years, which is likely due to the fact that this season’s vaccine is not effective in protecting against influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Scientists found that the current virus had developed a mutation, making it harder to prevent the infection from forming and spreading in the body.

More vulnerable populations, including children and older adults, are at a higher risk of  developing the influenza virus more than once this season, due to the wider range of strains. While the vaccine is a controversial topic, it has been recommended that people avoid nasal spray flu vaccines, and should rather get injectable flu shots.

Although many believe that the vaccine is a pointless attempt of protecting against the flu virus, the vaccine should still be taken to build up immunity to strains of influenza that will be emerging later in the season. The part of the flu virus that is most capable of producing an immune response is constantly mutating from year to year, so the vaccine has to be updated every year with those changes. Physicians are even planning to develop a universal vaccine for the flu virus that would provide long-term protection from the sickness.

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