It is Spring 2016 and the CDC broke the news to us all: there will be no flu shot without a sting. Yep. No nasal flu shot (if we could rightfully call it that). Done. The nasal spray had failed woefully, providing only 3% protection.
The number 3% is baffling. T-h-r-e-e p-e-r-c-e-n-t.
That is less protection than Akai Berry would give!
I am not making this up. You can read it for yourself on the CDC website.
Some of us have a bitter sweet feeling because on the one hand everybody gets the same thing now. Little kids under two no longer have to wait for when they will qualify for the shotless shot.
However on a deeper note one can only wonder what went down there. Did anyone know this was happening? How many people were fooled into getting a useless shot. How many people fell ill or even died after taking the LAIV thinking they were protected?
I must be cautious here and say that the influenza virus is a ninja of sorts. It does some meandering, called antigenic drift that makes it harder to pinpoint what it will look like during the next flu season, so the scientists have their work cut out for them.
None-the-less, influenza remains a clear and present danger and the symptoms are similar to a lot of other illnesses, mainly viral. You can read a little bit more detailed blog post here about influenza.
I have a summary of the atypical signs and symptoms of influenza and what to look out for.
The unusual symptoms and signs of influenza
These clinical signs and symptoms may be seen sometimes in influenza.
- Croup which is swelling of the inner surface of the throat, leading to hoarseness. Seen more commonly in influenza A, it mimics croup which is caused by a different virus, Parainfluenza.
- Encephalopathy is an abnormal functioning of the brain due to metabolic factors which may have been triggered by an infectious agent within or outside the brain. It may also be seen in noninfectious conditions like Wernicke’s encephalopathy due to vitamin imbalance/deficiencies (thiamine) seen in chronic alcoholics.
- Increased asthma symptoms and a lack of responsiveness to normally effective doses of inhaler or other medications.
- Myositis presents mainly with aches and pains in the calf muscles.
- Myocarditis is seen as inflammation of the heart muscles. Though uncommon, abnormality in the quality of the heartbeat is the earliest clue. This symptom can be life-threatening so doctors tend to be on the lookout for it.
- Parotitis is inflammation of the parotid gland, one of the major salivary glands. It gets tender, swollen and warm. Normally this symptom is seen in Mumps, but that is vanishingly rare in the United States today. In Nigeria, while growing up it was common and the condition is called “awaka nti” in the Igbo language. The parotid gland lies on both sides of the face, kind of over the muscle area that we see moving when we chew.
- Transient skin rash: these are flat with a few raised areas (maculopapular rash). May be missed in dark skinned individuals but looks more red in lighter persons. The rash is similar to what we see in a group of conditions called viral exanthems. Measles causes such a rash too.
I wish you all the best this year. If you are among the unfortunate ones to get diagnosed with flu, please make sure you tell your doctor (or tell me if you are coming to the pediatric clinic in Roswell) if you have any of these unusual symptoms.
You can read more about influenza this year and what to expect in this slightly more detailed blog post entitled The ABC of influenza and “the flu” for 2016–2017 season .