What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year?

Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 @ 5:09 PM

Ohio has reported the third flu-related infant death this season.

This year’s influenza season, dubbed “moderately severe” by health care officials, has hit the United States hard, with the number of recorded cases of the disease in parts of the country up more than 500 percent.

Thirteen children have died from the flu since October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with widespread flu activity being reported now in 46 states. California alone has seen 27 flu deaths this season, with 41,000 cases of flu  confirmed in the United States as of the week of Dec. 27.

The level of flu could soon be classified at epidemic level, Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan from the CDC said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” this week.

<<11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school

"What we're seeing this year the influenza season started earlier and seems to be peaking right about now," Jernigan, who is director of the Influenza Division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) at CDC, told "GMA."

"That's about a month earlier than it normally would be peaking," he said, "so lots of cases [are] happening, in lots of states, all at the same time."

Jernigan also addressed the talk of the flu’s effectiveness.

"We know that the influenza vaccine is the best way to prevent, but in this season it is not as effective as it is for the other viruses that circulate," Jernigan said on “GMA.”

Jernigan explained that the vaccine is more effective in trying to prevent other flu strains circulating in the United States than it is for the main strain of flu that has hit the U.S. this year.

Here’s what there is to know about this year’s flu season.

What kind of flu is being seen the most?

The prominent strain in Australia’s flu season was the H3N2 form of influenza A. That strain is what doctors are seeing in this country as well. The strain is included in this year’s flu vaccine.  

How effective is the flu vaccine?

Despite what has been reported about the flu vaccine’s effectiveness, the CDC says it believes the “U.S. VE estimates from last season are likely to be a better predictor of the flu vaccine benefits to expect this season against circulating H3N2 viruses in the United States.” Last year’s effectiveness for the H3N2 virus was around 43 percent. The CDC also stressed “Estimates of the flu vaccine’s effectiveness against circulating flu viruses in the United States will be available later in the season.”

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms include:

High fever

Cough

Sore throat

Runny nose

Muscle aches

Headaches

Nausea

Fatigue

The symptoms of flu can come on quickly. If you have these symptoms you need to see a doctor. The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus and infected to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

What can you do to try to prevent it?

If you have not gotten a flu shot, it’s late, but it is not too late. While thousands have gotten the flu, the influenza season is just reaching its peak. The CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone over the age of 6 months – infants and older people should especially be inoculated, according to the agency.

Remember, after the vaccine, your body can take up to two weeks to build up defenses against the flu virus.

If you are allergic to eggs, let your medical provider know that before you get the vaccine. The flu vaccine is grown using eggs.

Can you catch the flu from the vaccine?

No, you don’t get the flu from the vaccine because the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection.  

What if I already have the flu or at the symptoms of it?

Anti-viral medication – like Tamiflu – will help lessen the symptoms of flu. However, you need to start taking anti-virals within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. 

There seems to be a lot of flu around, is it an epidemic?

There are specific parameters used to determine if the flu has reached epidemic levels. Influenza is considered at epidemic level when the number of deaths from flu surpasses a threshold set by the CDC. In the last week of reports from the agency, the number of flu deaths was 0.2 percent below the threshold the CDC set, meaning a flu epidemic is possible soon. 

In years where the flu is considered “mild,” the CDC estimates it kills around 12,000 Americans. In moderately severe years, as this one is being called, 56,000 could die.

Here’s what’s new for this year’s flu season

From the CDC:

The recommendation to not use the nasal spray flu vaccine was renewed for the 2017-2018 season. Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use again this season.

Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.

Pregnant women may receive any licensed, recommended, and age-appropriate flu vaccine.

quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine (a vaccine designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses), is available this season.

In this Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, photo, a nurse administers an I.V. push of antibiotics to Alice McDonald at ProMedica Toledo Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. A nasty flu season is hitting U.S. hospitals already scrambling to maintain patient care amid severe shortages of crucial sterile fluids, particularly saline solution needed to administer I.V. medicines and rehydrate patients.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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Broward County Sheriff visits Parkland school shooting victim in hospital

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 8:57 PM

Victims of the Florida High School Mass Shooting

The Broward County sheriff said he was honored to visit a young student who survived the Feb. 14 South Florida school shooting that's left a community reeling. 

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The Broward County Sheriff's Office published a photo of Sheriff Scott Israel holding the hand of Anthony Borges, 15, in his hospital room.

"Fortunately, he is recovering -- but has a long road ahead with more surgeries needed," the Sheriff's Office posted. "Please join us in praying for the swift recovery of Anthony and all the other victims of this horrific criminal act."

The Sheriff's Office said in the Facebook post that Borges was shot five times during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Seventeen people, including students and staff, were killed in the shooting.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who admitted to the shooting, remains in custody at the Broward County jail after being ordered held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder.

As memorials for the shooting victims continue, students are demanding tighter gun control and walkouts are being planned in the wake of the tragedy. 

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Florida sheriff pushes for 'game changer' program to arm teachers

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 7:50 PM

Shooter Reportedly In Custody In Florida High School Shooting

Sheriff Grady Judd in Polk County, Florida, went on the news Saturday to talk about the so-called “Sentinel Program” as a possible legislative response to mass shootings like the one that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week, that left 17 dead.

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Judd called the program a “game changer” by arming select educators whose backgrounds have been vetted thoroughly, who have been psychologically evaluated and trained in weapons more intensely than law enforcement by state standards.

The sheriff argued that the solution is not something he wants, but it’s something that must happen.

“We have got to wake up, wake up and understand that we have to have … specially trained people that have concealed firearms that can run to the threat and protect our children,” he said.

“Do you know that there is gun control on every campus in Florida -- and, I would submit, across the United States -- that you can’t bring a gun on campus. And no one does, except the crazed person, the active shooter. There has to be a line of defense,” Judd said.

“There’s no absolutes in life, but I can tell you this: At least two coaches were killed standing in front of and trying to protect kids. Don’t you believe it would be a game-changer if they had a gun to defend the children?”

Students and parents have responded to the mass shooting perpetrated by Nikolas Cruz by calling for stricter guns laws in Florida.

Many participating in the #NeverAgain campaign seem to agree that they don’t want to arm teachers, but want “genuine, lasting change.”

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Republican mega-donor issues ultimatum on assault weapons

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 6:29 PM

WATCH: President Trump Addresses the Nation After Florida School Shooting

Al Hoffman Jr., a North Palm Beach real estate developer and major Republican donor, is cutting off donations to candidates who do not support a ban on assault weapons, according to a report in the New York Times.

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Hoffman said he would urge other Republican donors to support an assault weapons ban, according to the report. Hoffman announced the ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott. Hoffman has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes over the years.

A critic of President Trump, Hoffman supported Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign and donated more than $1 million to Right to Rise, a super PAC that supported Bush’s brief candidacy, according to the report.

“I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” Hoffman wrote in the email. “Enough is enough.”

The loss of Hoffman’s support could be especially harmful to Scott, who is considering a Senate bid this year. Republican Rep. Brian Mast also will not see any donations from Hoffman if he does not support new gun legislation, according to the report.

Hoffman, who has a history of speaking his mind, has threatened to cut donations before. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post in 2013, Hoffman said he would be reluctant to raise money for candidates who do not support “reasonable” gun control. The same year, Hoffman wrote a letter to former House Speaker John Boehner, urging him to also support gun measures.

Hoffman, a former Republican National Committee finance chair and ambassador to Portugal, further rankled Republicans in 2013 when he said President Barack Obama was right on gun issues, Hoffman made the comment after most Senate Republican and a few red-state Democrats blocked legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Hoffman alluded to past mass shootings in his email after the deaths of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. He said future gun massacres are inevitable without government intervention, according to the New York Times report.

“If we go from Orlando to Las Vegas, and now Parkland, you just have to know that there are others around the country just dreaming about staging another mass murder.”

Republican lawmakers in Florida have pushed back on gun control initiatives, despite the state being the site of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando -- the second-worst mass shooting in U.S. history that left 49 dead. Only the October shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas claimed more lives, with 58 killed.

The day after the Parkland shooting last week, Senate President Joe Negron said his interest would be focused on improving school safety and access to mental health treatment – not restricting gun laws.

“My focus is on making sure that lawful citizens who are obeying the law and entitled to their constitutional rights have appropriate access to firearms,” Negron said.

Although several gun bills were introduced during the state’s ongoing legislative session, the only one likely to pass -- HB 1419 and its companion SB 1048 -- expands the rights of a licensed person to carry a concealed weapon inside a church or other house of worship.

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Ohio sheriff: I will offer free conceal, carry class to teachers

Published: Sunday, February 18, 2018 @ 7:24 PM

WATCH: Florida Teacher Speaks Out About High School Shooting

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said Sunday he will take steps to bolster local school safety by training those who work there.

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Jones posted to social media that his office will offer free conceal-and-carry classes to a limited number of teachers in Butler County. He also said training on how to react during school shootings would be provided.

He said the details would be coming soon online at the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Jones said Saturday he has “been saying this for years” as he tweeted a Fox News story that Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd said it would be a “game changer” to allow some handpicked teachers to carry firearms in the classroom.

Jones, in a video posted Thursday, urged local schools to act now to improve school security in the wake of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Wednesday.

He said local schools should stop doing fire drills and allow armed former police and military veterans into buildings to help protect students.

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