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NFID Medical Director Dr. Schaffner Offers Insight Into 2017-2018 Flu Season


William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, offers insight into the 2017-2018 flu season, including which strain of the virus that is expected to be most prevalent.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

"Here we are at the beginning of October and we can already see influenza being reported here and there; that’s the usual state of affairs. Now, influenza will take off usually at the end of October into November. If you look at the average, it will peak in the United States in February, but it doesn’t peak all over the country at the same time. Here and there you’ll have outbreaks of influenza and its very community-specific, but we’ll get most of our flu usually in the beginning of the new year. And, of course, it can extend into March, and as it did last year, it was kind of late flu into April.

Last year, we had this H3N2 strain, which is a more serious strain of the flu, and, frankly, we expect the same this year. It turns out that in the southern hemisphere, they have their winter during our summer; they had a bad H3N2 season, so we anticipate that that virus is going to be the most common in the United States again this year.

Now, the good news is that what’s in the vaccine is a very good match to that H3N2 strain. So, if you needed another reason to either give the flu vaccine or to get it, the H3N2, which causes more serious disease, ought to provide you that reason to roll up your sleeve."
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Big advances in treatment can't make up for an inability to stop new infections, which number 5,000 per day worldwide.