The Year of H3N2

National and international viral studies indicate that the predominant strain of flu this year is the subtype H3N2 of influenza A. Every year, scientists study which strains of flu predominate internationally and determine what the composition of the flu shot should be. Traditionally, the vaccine will include one of each of the following types of killed virus: H1N1 influenza A, and H3N2 influenza A and influenza B. The killed viruses in the vaccine generate an antibody response in the shot’s recipient. Two weeks after immunization, the recipient develops the antibodies needed to provide protection against the flu. Studies to date show that the predominant flu infections are those covered by this season’s vaccine.

Preventive measures in addition to the flu shot include frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, avoiding contact with sick people, and good nutrition. Try to avoid touching your nose, mouth, or face as this will help prevent contact exposure of your mucous membranes and respiratory system to the virus. Regular exercise and getting plenty of rest may help boost your immune system. If you exercise at a fitness facility, don’t forget to use cleaning wipes before and after using each piece of equipment.

Unfortunately, a person about to develop the flu may be contagious for a full day before any symptoms develop. The flu may be transmitted for as many as 7 days after symptoms first develop. A good rule of thumb is to stay home and limit your exposure to others until you have been fever-free for a full 24 hours.

To stay informed about the flu, there are several excellent websites that include verified scientific data and medically sound advice. A comprehensive webpage that includes links to information about multiple flu-related topics is this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site. If you would like to track the progress of the flu each week, including number of cases, locations, and flu types and subtypes, check out this report. If you have not decided whether the flu shot is right for you, the CDC has a useful information page. The World Health Organization (WHO) also generates information for internet users across the globe.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.