Flu activity is still high in Minnesota, and we anticipate many weeks of flu activity to come. We often see an increase in influenza B in the spring. This has been a particularly severe season with over 4,600 hospitalizations reported so far—the highest number in a single season since statewide flu hospitalization surveillance began in 2008. Since the beginning of the season, there have been 160 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, 588 influenza-like illness outbreaks in schools, and 4 pediatric flu-associated deaths.
On Feb. 15, 2018, CDC released the Interim Estimates of 2017-18 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness. Overall, they found that the vaccine effectiveness (VE) against influenza A and B was about 36 percent. For VE of the individual strains, they found that the vaccine is about 25 percent effective against the H3N2 strain, 67 percent effective against the H1N1 strain, and 42 percent effective against the B strains. Of note, they found that VE against the H3N2 strain for children 6 months through 8 years of age was 59 percent. While the vaccine isn’t perfect, it does help prevent a significant number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths related to flu. We are still recommending to receive the flu vaccine.