A new study published in The Lancet calculated worldwide annual influenza deaths from surveillance data collected in 33 countries covering 57% of the world population for the years 1999 to 2015. The burden is greatest for poor regions and the elderly (especially those over age 75). Summaries of the findings were posted by the CDC and CIDRAP. A Commentary accompanying the paper in The Lancet suggests that a major roadblock to reducing the death toll is the low level of effectiveness of current vaccines, especially in the elderly.
Here in College Park, CATCH the Virus Study is working to provide new insights to help defend against influenza. If you live in the cluster of residence halls known as the Cambridge Community, and especially if you are a freshman in the STS, LS, or GPH Scholars program you too can help by participating in the study.
It is hard to know at this point early in the season just how much influenza-like illness there will be this winter. But, as you can see in the chart comparing 5 previous seasons, it looks like we are on course for a lot of flu. The good news in this weeks report from CDC is that 77% of influenza A viruses tested were a close match to the vaccine strain. The bad news is that 23% were from a newer clade of influenza A H3N2 viruses similar to those that caused a bad season in Australia during our summer. The vaccine is not perfect — but it’s all we’ve got. Hope you got yours … But in case you didn’t yet, it’s not too late!
Infants and pregnant women in low and middle income countries (LMICs) are at much higher risk of death and other severe outcomes from influenza infection than babies and pregnant women in high income countries. If you want the quick read — see this post at the University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP. The full journal articles are also linked there.