The Ins and Outs of Flu Season

Every year the countries of the world host parties for microscopic travelers, and although these parties tend to be viral, you won’t find them trending on YouTube. The influenza virus is instead found invading our respiratory tracts and can be deadly without proper treatment. Flu season often brings with it childhood memories of mom nagging you to wash your hands, or dad telling you to cough and sneeze into your sleeve. Although these practices help in preventing our guests from having too much fun, vaccinations allow us to maximize our immune defenses against those unwanted pathogens.

The effectiveness of a vaccine depends on predictions made about the virus during the off-season in North America. This is done mostly by keeping an eye on the behavior of influenza strains during their time in the southern hemisphere. Australia, for example, released several reports in August estimating their seasonal influenza vaccine to have had an effectiveness of only about 10%, also identifying the infamous H3N2 strain of Influenza A to be culprit this year. Since H3N2 is the most dangerous of all the common strains, our scientists worked hard to produce a vaccine that are able to quell its ill personality.

How does this H3N2 influenza virus work? It infects the respiratory system through droplets expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. So, then it seems that mom and dad did have the right idea in mind. Once infected, many may experience the discomfort of the flu without it threatening to take their lives, thanks to their immune system’s excellent performance. It is those who are younger than 5, older than 60, or with preexisting conditions that are most at risk of developing severe complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Since the immune systems in younger children have not fully developed and lack an adequate pathogen “memory”, the virus is more likely to infect them and overpower their immune response. Similarly, the elderly show weakened responses to pathogens due to the aging of their immune system and its inability to recognize new strains. respiratory tract. This usually leads to more elderly people being admitted to the hospital for influenza than any other age.

After infecting us, the virus uses our own cells to replicate itself. Each replication is a chance for a new mutation, and these mutations accumulate, changing the virus more and more over time. Most of these mutations do not change the virus enough to hide from our immune system, but as more time passes since a person has last been infected with influenza, the changes it has undergone make it less likely that his or her immune system will recognize it. This eventually makes it unrecognizable and able to attack once again. Drifting is the term used to describe this phenomenon and it is what occurs in most cases when elderly people are infected. We know that an influenza virus is especially dangerous when the rate of infection is similar in young or middle-aged adults and the elderly. This means that the virus underwent a mutation that radically changed it so that no matter how long ago you were infected, your body will not recognize it. These strains can infect children, adults, and the elderly with ease, as was the case for the H1N1, or “swine flu”, pandemic of 2009.

This year’s influenza vaccine will only be 30% effective. . This means that if you are given the vaccine there is a 30% reduction in your chances of having to go to the doctor for flu related treatment.Dr. Dan Jernigan

A vaccine can provide us with immune defenses that can recognize what would otherwise be unrecognizable strains of influenza. Dr. Dan Jernigan from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates that this year’s influenza vaccine will only be 30% effective. This means that if you are given the vaccine there is a 30% reduction in your chances of having to go to the doctor for flu related treatment. For many, especially those who are scared of needles, the 30% may not seem worthwhile if it means having to get a shot. However, if you end up needing treatment for influenza at the doctor’s office, you are subjecting yourself to not only more shots, but, possibly, a lack of treatment. Power loss in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria disrupted the distribution of pharmaceuticals from Baxter International, one of the few producers of these IV bags. These bags are used to hydrate us and to administer both nutrients and medications directly into our blood vessels, and are used to treat influenza. This shortage is affecting some, but not all healthcare facilities in the United States, so it is best to play it safe by facing your fears and/or simply just taking the time to go get your flu shot.

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Torrie Hook is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in Human Physiology on a pre-medical track. She is currently working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for Iowa City Hospice in addition to being a full-time student. Her research in Dr. Melissa Bates Laboratory of Pulmonary and Developmental Physiology aims to understand the consequences of administering highly concentrated oxygen to premature infants. As the new Editor-in-Chief of Stemosphere, she aims to share scientific breakthroughs and information with the readers in an interesting and understandable way.