While summer may be in full swing, the influenza season is lingering longer than usual here in Arizona. In June, we typically see around 200 laboratory confirmed influenza cases. This year there were nearly 1,300 confirmed influenza cases in June .
Our ADHS disease detectives and county health departments monitor influenza activity all year. In the summer, disease detectives perform investigations on all influenza cases reported to the health department. They find out if there was any recent travel or contact with animals and work to get specimens tested at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory to determine the strain. This is done in order to detect novel or variant influenza strains, which require a public health response.
In this past year, there has been one case of variant influenza found in Texas. Variant influenza infections are a result of a human infection from a swine influenza virus that naturally circulates and infects pigs. People can catch a variant influenza virus from direct contact with an infected pig. While enjoying summer and fall fairs, petting zoos, and other situations where there may be contact with pigs, it is critical to wash your hands immediately after contact.
The number one way to protect yourself and your family from influenza is by receiving the annual influenza vaccine. The influenza vaccine can reduce influenza illnesses, doctors’ visits, absences from work and school, and prevent hospitalizations. The CDC recommends that everyone older than six months, especially those at high risk of developing influenza-related complications, receive an influenza vaccine every year as soon as it’s available. It takes two weeks to build immunity to the virus and for the vaccine to become effective in preventing an infection.
The composition of the influenza vaccine is reviewed annually to match circulating influenza viruses, where the World Health Organization predicts which three or four viruses will be most common in the upcoming season. The composition of the 2017–2018 influenza vaccine is now finalized and will be available to receive in the fall. You can stay up to date on influenza activity in Arizona by visiting our website or signing up for email updates.