The dreaded flu is upon us! When cold and dry weather arrives in North America, this nasty viral respiratory disease makes many people miserable with headaches, fever, cough, muscle pains, and runny noses. So far this season, over 80% of reported illnesses have involved the virulent H3N2 strain of influenza A. This viral strain is the most serious because it is difficult to prevent and can cause deadly health complications among vulnerable groups like the elderly and children.
The severity of the yearly flu season in southern hemisphere countries, where winter precedes ours by several months, gives North America a preview of what to expect. This year the U.S. was bracing for a difficult winter after witnessing Australians suffer over twice the number of cases of H3N2 flu in 2017 compared to 2016. In addition, they had 745 deaths compared to their average of 176 deaths. For comparison, a mild flu season in the U.S. historically kills about 12,000 Americans, while a severe season kills about 56,000.