A 12-year-old West Palm Beach boy who died after contracting the flu was infected with a strain of the virus that experts say is uncommon, but is targeted by this year’s vaccine.
While Dylan Winnik’s death is a tragedy, experts say there may be a silver lining in that people who received flu shot may be protected from the strain that killed him, the Palm Beach Post reports. The boy’s parents reportedly said he did not receive a flu shot this year.
Health experts have been mostly concerned with a strain of influenza A known as the “Aussie flu,” which caused the highest number of infections and deaths in Australia since the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
But lab analyses determined that a strain of influenza B — known as the Yamagata flu — took Winnik’s life on Jan. 23. The strain is killing dozens in Hong Kong and Ireland, including young children.
The only good news in the tragedy, health expert say, is that the virus is included in the U.S. quadrivalent vaccine, which means most people who received the shot have some protection.
More concerning, they note, would be if the viral strain was not included in this year’s flu shot.
The Yamagata flu strain is contracted and spread particularly in children.
In general, the Yamagata flu is usually considered to be less deadly, but more contagious than the influenza A that is still dominating the season in the U.S.
Dr. Reinhard Motte, an associate Palm Beach County medical examiner, said he may have contracted the flu himself right after conducting the autopsy Winnik, but because he had been vaccinated his recovery was fairly swift.
The flu vaccine offers protection against four strains of the virus. Experts note the flu shot is usually only 40 percent to 60 percent effective, but it can also lessen the severity and duration of illness in those who suffer influenza.
The major concern this flu season remains influenza A, H2N3, the so-called Aussie flu, expert say. It’s especially dangerous to people older than 65 years of age and young children.
The flu has taken an early toll this season, with widespread outbreaks in every state, but Hawaii and many hospitals stretched thin to accommodate influenza patients.
Experts say it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but other strategies can also help — such as limiting contact with sick individuals, washing your hands frequently, and keeping your defenses up through diet, exercise, getting sufficient rest, and other health habits.
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