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Wrap Up of 2018-2019 Flu Season and What’s New for the 2019-2020 Season

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the 2018-2019 flu season, while less severe than last year’s brutal season, was the longest in a decade. Lasting 21 weeks, the 2018-2019 season had fewer illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths reported and had an overall severity rating of moderate when compared to the 2017-2018 flu season. The most recent flu season was unique in terms of how long it lasted and the sequence of the virus type and subtype. During most flu seasons, there is a wave of influenza A strain infections, followed by a smaller wave of the generally less severe, influenza B strain infections; however, this year there was an initial influenza A (H1N1) infection that dominated from October through mid-February, followed by a second wave of influenza A (H3N2) infections starting mid-February and lasting through mid-May, with very little influenza B activity. Experiencing the two similar peaks of activity for the flu A strains and understanding that the H3N2 strain is known to cause more severe symptoms than H1N1, many of us are happy the 2018-2019 flu season is behind us.

While many of us are enjoying the summer weather and going on vacation, looking ahead, the 2019-2020 flu season will be here before you know it. There have been changes to the influenza vaccine for the 2019-2020 flu season. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both selected new strains for each of the two Influenza A strains included in the trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines. In the United States, the composition of the flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Those updates are made to improve coverage and reduce influenza-related complications. The CDC recommends that all adults and children older than six months should get a flu vaccine by the end of October in any given year. Although the shot is still effective if received later, getting vaccinated before flu season is in full force offers the best protection.

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