As flu season enters 2020, the influenza B strain of the flu virus has arrived earlier than normal making this year’s season off to an “atypically” early start, said Dr. Richard Webby, a member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Composition Team.
“Often we see the influenza B strain of the flu virus later in the season, sometimes following influenza A virus circulation – but this season, we see the influenza B strain arriving earlier than normal kicking off this year’s flu season ‘atypically’ early,” Webby said. “Regardless of what strain of influenza you get, the best protection from the flu virus is the flu vaccine. It is still the most valuable and life-saving public health tool in preventing and spreading the flu.”
At the moment the Victoria B Influenza strain is the most dominant strain of the virus in the country and is impacting children more than adults. The Victoria B Influenza strain appeared in Victoria, Australia some three decades ago and circulates in humans along with another influenza b virus and two influenza A viruses-which is the reason most of our flu shots have four components.
“We don’t know exactly why the Influenza B strain impacts children more than adults, but if we compare how much viruses have changed the B strain tends to change a little more slowly. Therefore, it is possible that adults have the opportunity to build up more immunity over time to this particular strain and thus resulting in greater natural protection,” said Webby.
Webby continued, “Because of the nature of the Influenza B strain’s greater impact on children and its early arrival, parents need to be extra cautious and take the necessary steps now, such as the getting their child the flu shot and going to their doctor early in the course of illness, to protect them from this potentially lethal strain.”
Webby wrote a recent guest piece in Newsweek alerting everyone to get the flu shot as it is the best protection from the flu virus.
“It’s certainly not too late to get the flu shot. It is composed of both influenza A antigens and influenzas B antigens, which will help fight the flu and keep you healthy. While we are seeing an early B season, last year we saw what was almost two consecutive flu seasons involving different viruses. If that happens again, now would be a good time to get vaccinated in preparation for the second virus,” concluded Webby.