Test what you know about flu seasons past and what the flu season present might have in store with 8 questions based on the history. Remember: Winter is coming.
Fans of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” will remember this ominous phrase as a metaphor for the next bad thing around the corner. When a primary care physician mentions this to a fellow doctor, they both know it is code for “flu season and long hours are coming.”
While it is difficult to say anything good about COVID-19, one positive that came out of it was the 2020-2021 flu season -- the mildest across all metrics reported by the CDC: cases, deaths, hospitalizations, etc. For example, a single pediatric flu death was reported last season. In the previous flu season, 199 children died from the flu.
Test what you know about flu seasons past and what the flu season present might have in store with 8 questions based on the history.
1. The CDC classifies flu seasons into low, moderate, and high categories. Following a “low” severity flu season the chance for a “high” severity season is greater than it would be after a “moderate” season. True or False?
Answer: The science based answer is, False. Between 2003 and 2018 the CDC classified 4 seasons as low severity, 3 as high, and 8 as moderate. None of the low seasons had a high season the following year. In fact, we had 2 low seasons back-to-back in 2005-2007.
2. Several reasons have been postulated for the mild 2020-2021 flu season. Masking and social isolation are on most experts' list. Did flu vaccine have anything to do with it as well? A record number of flu vaccines were given last flu season. True or False?
The answer is True. A record number of flu vaccines were given during the 2020-2021 flu season. 193.8 million doses of flu vaccine were given last year, up 10% from the 2019-1920 season. There has been a steady increase in total flu vaccine doses given since the 2017-2018 season, averaging a ~6% increase per year until last year.
3. Another possible reason for the low number of flu cases last year (2020-2021) was that the circulating strains were matched very well with the strains in the vaccine. True or False?
Answer: We don't know. A Trick question… As of July 2021, the CDC does not have an answer on vaccine effectiveness for the 2020-2021 season due to the paucity of cases.
4. As of August 3, 2021, a higher percentage of Americans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 vs the 50-55% vaccinated against the flu last season. True or False?
The answer is False. Just 49.9% of Americans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in early August vs the 50-55% vaccinated against flu last year. On a brighter note—58.2% of Americans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
5. Deaths from flu in 2020-2021 were the lowest seen in 7 seasons. How many Americans died from influenza infection?
The correct answer is A. <1000 deaths from influenza were confirmed during the 2020-2021 season. Only pediatric flu deaths are reportable by law so adult deaths are often estimated based on hospital admission rates. The2017-2018 season was severe. An estimated 61 000 Americans died.
6. Currently, 3 US companies make COVID vaccines (1 approved, 2 authorized for use in the US). There are many more options for flu vaccines. How many different named flu vaccines can be administered in the US in the 2021-2022 season?
The correct answer is 10 flu vaccines are available for administration in the US for the 2021-2022 flu season.
7. While the CDC says that someone with even a severe egg allergy can receive any approved flu vaccine, it would seem prudent to use a vaccine not made with eggs. Two in the list are egg-free. Can you name them?
The answer is Flublok and Flucelvax do not use eggs in the manufacturing process. Flublok is a recombinant vaccine and Flucelvax is a cell culture-based vaccine.
8. Influenza vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year and even within a single season
as strains mutate and as different strains arise. In the 10 flu seasons from 2009-2010 through 2018-2019, what was the maximum vaccine effectiveness according to CDC data?
The correct answer is A. The most effective flu vaccine in the past 10 seasons was in 2010-2011 and it was 60% effective. Vaccine effectiveness was lowest in 2014-2015—19%.