A 2002 National Center for Education Statistics study found that approximately six percent of all schools surveyed had trash overflowing somewhere on school property. Given that the flu virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, this continues to be a concern for parents and students alike as flu season hurdles ever closer.
Fortunately, the flu vaccine is set to get an update for the first time in eight years this year.
The virus currently found in the vaccine was collected from a sick person in California in 2009, at the height of the H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic.
This week, the World Health Organization recommended that manufacturers of the flu vaccine swap out the old virus for one that is more updated.
In fact, it’s rare to see a virus in one vaccine for as long as the 2009 strain has been in current flu vaccines.
Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an influenza epidemiologist at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control in Vancouver, said that the vaccine currently being used has had a long an successful career, but agrees that it’s time to give it a much needed update.
After all, the flu virus can change from season to season. It’s difficult to think how much could have changed in eight years.
In fact, so much has changed that a group of researchers at the university of Rochester Medical Center recently discovered an improbable mutation in an influenza virus that renders it defenseless against the body’s immune system.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped recommending use of the live attenuate flu vaccine earlier this year, a new approach was needed.
The nasal spray may have been effective, but it offered no true protection to the younger age group to whom it was administered. Now, however, that may be able to change.
“There is a need to understand what’s happening with the existing live vaccine and potentially a need to develop a new one,” said Joseph Chamberlain Wilson, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at URMC and author of the study.
The researchers also said that this particular mutation could be used to reformulate the nasal spray and create a better live vaccine.
While researchers at URMC strive to create a better live vaccine, health officials are preparing to release the updated version of the traditional flu vaccine.
The updated vaccine should be ready in time to administer it just before the 2017 winter of the southern hemisphere.
The change should be able to offer better protection to a large portion of the population, namely those over the age of 30 and young children.