New research from the American Heart Association states that for people with heart disease, an influenza vaccination can prevent illness and death. A research poster, which analyzed more than 15,000 people aged 40 years and older, was presented at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2019 in Philadelphia in November.
Despite this benefit, nearly 1 in 3 people had not been vaccinated against the flu in the past year. Among patients who had insurance and access to regular medical care, nearly a third hadn’t been vaccinated for the flu, the investigators added. Furthermore, those who were uninsured with low incomes had the highest rates for non-vaccination: 65%, they said.
“Our study sheds light on key inequalities related to disparities in flu vaccination rates,” senior author Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH, MSc, chief of cardiovascular prevention & director of Outcome Research at Houston Methodist, said in a press release. “We hope that flu vaccinations among heart disease patients becomes an integral part of quality of care measures and will facilitate processes to limit these unintended care gaps among the most vulnerable in our society.”
Separately, a report published in Nature Microbiology found that a new strain of flu, H3N2, could be developing resistance to baloxavir marboxil. An 11-year-old boy in Japan was treated with baloxavir after being diagnosed with influenza H3N2. However, a week later, his 3-year-old sister was also diagnosed with H3N2. This caught investigators’ attention.
During Japan’s 2018-19 flu season, investigators collected respiratory samples from patients before and after being treated with baloxavir. They collected samples from 40 adults and 101 children who had H3N2 and learned 2 children possessed the mutated strain that was resistant to baloxavir. Additionally, they looked at 16 patient samples from before and after treatment with baloxavir and found no mutations in adult samples, but 4 of the 12 pediatric samples had the mutation.
“The drug resistant virus does transmit but there are so many influenza viruses worldwide and only a small population will be treated with this drug,” study author Yoshihiro Kawaoka, BS, DVM, MS, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of pathobiological sciences, said in a press release. “The vast majority remain drug sensitive.”
Other flu tidbits:
- The Associated Press reported the flu season was off to its earliest start in 15 years, citing particular high numbers in the Southern United States. For example, Children’s Hospital New Orleans has seen more flu cases already this year than all of last year; November was the busiest month ever, where officials were forced to set up a triage system and add extra shifts. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials estimated there had already been 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 900 flu-related deaths nationally.
- A Clinical Infectious Disease report demonstrated that the flu vaccine provided meaningful protection for asthma patients against more severe attacks. “This study showed that vaccination can prevent influenza in individuals with asthma presented with influenza-like illness in Scottish primary and secondary care settings,” the study authors wrote, Contagion® reported.
- A study out of Taiwan found that receiving the influenza vaccination may be associated with an increased risk for urticaria in stroke patients. The study, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging, examined almost 200,000 patients with newly-diagnosed stroke aged 65 years or older and found an increased risk for patients of both sexes. There was an increased risk among the 65-84 years age bracket, as well as patients with comorbid medication conditions.
- The Washington Post reported that Customs and Border Protection rejected a recommendation from the CDC to vaccinate migrants against the influenza virus. Last year, the flu season in detention facilities continued into May and sickened hundreds, including agents and detainees. At least 3 children died after being diagnosed with the flu in Border Patrol custody, the Post said. “CDC’s recommendations are clear: flu vaccines should be administered to people as soon as possible to prevent the spread of this deadly disease,” said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who originally revealed the denied CDC recommendation.
- Despite no objection from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3 states (Florida, Connecticut, and Vermont) bar children from being vaccinated against the flu in pharmacies. An additional 30 states have restrictions against the practice based on the child’s age, reports CNN. “I just want to see more children get vaccinated. I don’t really care how you do it,” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in the report. NBC Connecticut reported that the Connecticut Pharmacists Association’s chief executive officer doesn’t plan to push for a bill in the next legislative session that would allow for young people to get a flu shot from a pharmacist.
- More from Connecticut, as Yale University investigators demonstrated that a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet — such as the Keto diet – combated the flu more successfully than mice fed high-carb foods. Study authors called it “a totally unexpected finding” in a press release.
- And finally, the Seattle Seahawks NFL team listed 6 players as dealing with illness ahead of their Dec. 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Cornerback Tre Flowers went through practice wearing a surgical mask, saying, “They tried to send me home, I wasn’t taking that for an answer, I had to put on the doctor mask. Then I looked I was going to die out here. I’m glad all of that is over with, we’re trying to get back to normal.” By later in the week, all 6 of the impacted players were back to full practice participation.