North America will soon be facing the most current flu season. If it is anything like the influenza impacting Australia, it could be a very challenging flu season. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the United States is bracing for a severe influenza season. If this does happen, it will continue a difficult period of losing battles with the flu that started in 2014. This year in Australia was the beginning of a situation where available flu vaccines are no match for the most common viruses impacting people.
Australia 2017 Flu Season
Public health officials in the land down under have reported their rates of flu set records for Australia. It came with significantly above-average numbers of people being hospitalized as well as dying from the flu. Australia was impacted by a common flu strain of influenza. It has been identified as the H3N2 virus. According to official estimates, only ten percent of the vaccines taken by Australians were effective.
This is the same flu vaccine now being administered to many Americans. It uses the same formulation as the one utilized in Australia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), there have been over 1,500 confirmed cases of flu in the United States since October 1, 2017. They were confirmed to be the H3N2 variety of flu. The flu vaccine used last season was shown to be over 33 percent effective against the H3N2 flu in the United States. The current situation causes quite a large problem. The results from the Australian flu season have led many officials to believe this could be a very bad flu season in the United States. It may still not be a reason for people in the United States to avoid getting a flu shot. According to the NIAID, even a vaccine with effectiveness that is limited will help some individuals from experiencing the flu. It’s also possible those who do get the flu will spend a less time being sick.
Universal Flu Shot
According to Australian health officials, and the World Health Organization (WHO), flu vaccines have been able to avoid over 39,000 deaths from flu in just the United States. Should a universal flu vaccine be created, an annual flu shot, as well as guessing which flu strains to match may no longer be a problem. The Universal flu shot is still in the development stages. The goal is to have a candidate universal vaccine made that will train an individual’s immune system to recognize elements of the virus common to all strains of influenza. These are strains that don’t change as they move across the globe. Studies have been published about the current dominant production method for flu vaccines. They show when vaccine makers utilize eggs as a way to grow viruses mutations occur. It decreases the effectiveness of the vaccine. This is a vaccine production method that has been used for decades.
Past Flu Seasons
In previous flu seasons in Australia, there did not seem to be a disconnect between the active flu strains causing health problems, and those that had a vaccine developed for them. According to studies, the mutations created seem to have been introduced as the vaccines were manufactured using eggs. It is possible for the vaccines to create an unanticipated or accidental mismatch during the manufacturing process. Health experts agree this could be what occurred this year in Australia.
When a universal vaccine is produced, it will not involve the risks associated with the current production method. This viral parts of a universal vaccine will not be a living organism. It will be a genetically engineered protein. It will be able to be grown and expanded in bacteria. This will make using eggs no longer necessary.
The universal flu vaccine is currently in the very earliest stages of being studied with human clinical trials. There are other forms of the vaccine being tested on animals. It may not be ready to use on humans for several years. The development of a universal flu vaccine has been made a priority.
Learn more about the Flu Shot.