THE influenza season is here, so expect to get it. That was the general takeaway from responses Dr. Gemma Cherry, Acting National Epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health gave during an interview on local concerns about a stronger strain of flu being reported in the U.S.
“You would expect to see cases of flu at this time,” she said, when asked whether Saint Lucia really was experiencing a normal flu season this year.
“Normally, for example, when we had H1N1, you had an increase in hospitalizations, but at this time we are not seeing an increase. From the surveillance that we are doing, we are not seeing an increase in (flu) cases during this time of year,” she said.
As has been reported in Time Health, “The flu season in the U.S. is getting worse.”In the same report, Dr. Dan Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that, “This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought.”
In an article written earlier this month on the popsci.com website, the headline reads that in the U.S., “This flu season has killed 53 kids so far.” It goes on to state that it is a “severe H3N2 strain” of influenza, which “has put many in the hospital.”
However, the above-referenced article does echo Dr. Cherry’s sentiments regarding the fact that there has been no deviation from flu patterns of previous years, admitting that “we don’t know yet whether flu-related deaths are actually more common this year than average.” So even our local perception based on U.S. news reports that the flu season over there is worse than usual, has not yet been ascertained.
When asked if St. Lucians should be concerned with the flu situation in the U.S., Dr. Cherry stated that: “Persons may be very concerned about what is happening in the U.S. at present because the U.S. is having a very busy and a very active flu season. They’ve actually reached epidemic proportions with many hospitalizations and a number of deaths. In our case, it is not the same.”
“We are not having such an active or such a severe flu season at present,” Dr. Cherry added.
Dr. Cherry made it clear that it is currently at peak time for the flu season, saying that it begins in October and normally ends around May and that “generally, you expect peaks at about February…so basically, what we see now is not unique.”
In reemphasizing that there has hitherto been no marked increase in neither the severity nor the number of influenza cases in St. Lucia, she stated that even though “we are still continuing our active surveillance for (an) increase in what we call fever and respiratory cases”, “at present we are not having lots of hospitalizations…of persons developing complications, as a result of the flu virus.”