Influenza on the Rise

The CDC released its update on the 2015-2016 season. Many of my patients have mixed feelings about the flu vaccine. Young, healthy individuals have far less morbidity and mortality from influenza. However, if you travel frequently or spend time with babies or elderly people, I recommend the vaccine to avoid spreading the flu to more compromised individuals. I do order the FluMist nasal for the office each year. It is a live attenuated, preservative-free vaccine, approved for patients age 2 through 49.

The 2015–16 influenza vaccine is 59% effective so far — comparable to past seasons with good matches between vaccine and circulating virus strains — according to data presented at the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting on Wednesday.

When broken down by virus type, the estimated effectiveness is 51% against the H1N1 viruses causing most influenza this season, 76% against all influenza B viruses, and 79% percent against the B/Yamagata lineage of B viruses.

Flu activity started slowly this year, not becoming elevated until mid-January. Activity has remained elevated since then and "is still on the upswing and expected to continue for several weeks," said Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the CDC's Epidemiology and Prevention Branch.

Also at the meeting, ACIP updated its flu vaccine recommendations to note that patients with egg allergy may now receive live attenuated vaccine. (A 2015 study in The BMJ demonstrated its safety in egg-allergic children;)