Expert: The problem with this year's flu is a slightly less effective vaccine
The problem with this year's flu is that the vaccine is slightly less effective, says Prof. Paweł Górski, head of Department I of Internal Diseases at the Medical University of Lodz. He emphasises that flu vaccinations are necessary unless there are genuine contraindications.
According to the expert, two types of the influenza virus are dangerous for humans: A and B, but only type A viruses mutate. "In type B there are virtually no mutations" - he adds.
In his opinion, two types of influenza virus will threaten us in the coming years: H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes, although no one can predict the possible return of some other variants, mutations of particular subtypes.
"Remember that there are as many as 18 such subtypes, eight of them in human pathology. But these eight subtypes are so variable that no one can predict a mutation that could appear next year or in subsequent years, and be resistant to quick prevention with a vaccine" - emphasises Prof. Górski.
Prof. Górski explains that the aggressiveness of this disease is very serious, and the increasing mobility of societies makes its period of occurrence considerably longer. The flu used to come to Poland at the end of February and last until about mid-April, and now flu cases are recorded from early autumn until late spring.
According to Prof. Górski, the real problem of this year\'s flu is that the vaccine is slightly less effective. "The point is that in the quadrivalent vaccine, which we have at the moment, the very effective fraction is the fraction marked H1N1. This is the fraction of the vaccine that we have been immunizing ourselves with for many years. However, the H3N2 fraction is not fully perfected" - he says.
The mutation of the H3N2 influenza virus dangerous to health and life is called Australian. It appeared approximately 4-5 years ago. "Unfortunately, for technological reasons, this fraction is somewhat imperfect in the currently sold vaccine" - notes the expert.
The problem is that this virus has a certain affinity with the egg protein, the basis for the multiplication of influenza viruses, which inactivates the H3N2 fraction to a certain extent.
"We have been observing a slightly lower effectiveness of the vaccine for two years, but that does not mean that you should not get vaccinated. It is a colossal mistake if you do not get vaccinated. The active fraction in this vaccine, the H1N1, as well as the fraction of two types of the B virus, is still important and it works. Only one mutation type is not very active" - says the former rector of the Medical University of Lodz. He adds that it is also active, just "not as fully as we would expect, and not as in previous years".
He emphasizes that everyone should get vaccinated against influenza, with the exception of very few groups for whom there are genuine contraindications.
In his opinion, the groups that should primarily vaccinate against influenza include pregnant women, children from 6 months to 4 years of age, patients with various chronic diseases, including respiratory diseases: COPD, asthma, patients with diabetes, those suffering from an immunodeficiency, or patients with ischemic heart disease. Also people who have frequent contact with others and all people over 50.
Among the most important organs attacked by flu, the expert mentions: the respiratory system - from the conjunctiva, through the nose, respiratory tract and lungs, in which it causes severe inflammation, as well as the heart and nervous system, including the central nervous system.
"Influenza is particularly associated with the respiratory system, but it practically affects 3/4 of our organs. It also attacks coronary vessels and the broadly understood nervous system. It can enter the heart muscle, causing severely inflamed myocardium, and finally influenza can affect the nerve ganglia that control the heart" - notes Prof. Górski
That is why - he emphasizes - even if people with flu do not have changes in the heart, they have viral changes in the system that supervises its work. Arrhythmias can appear. Influenza may even affect the spinal cord and cause various paralytic lesions, including Guillain-Barré syndrome. On the other hand, in principle, the flu does not affect the digestive tract.
According to Prof. Górski, it is unlikely that we would be threatened with a repeat of the Spanish flu - a dangerous variant of the influenza virus that raged in 1917-1920 and - according to estimates - killed 20 million people.
"The Spanish flu encountered a completely devastated society, virtually deprived of any immunity, a society unprepared for hygienic activities" - reminds head of Department I of Internal Medicine of the Medical University of Lodz.
We now have a completely different battery of medicines for flu-related illnesses and we have vaccines. The imperfection of the current vaccine does not mean that it will not be perfect next year.
"That\'s why I think that we do not have to worry about the Spanish flu. I even think that we are not threatened by the famous Hong Kong flu that had an outbreak in 1957-59. But viral shifts can happen and nobody can guarantee that they won\'t - I\'m am only talking about probabilities" - concludes Prof. Paweł Górski. (PAP)
szu/ ksk/ ekr/ kap/