It has the ability to mutate both during and between flu seasons (more so than other strains), rendering our preventative vaccines less effective.
"I would say it is encouraging that we're starting to see a decrease in the number of new hospital admissions for influenza, but we are still in the thick of influenza activity of what is turning out to be quite a severe influenza season", said Karen Martin, an epidemiologist with MDH.
While scientists seasonally do a pretty good job of predicting what will hit the US, much less is understood about why strains like the Hong Kong flu wreak havoc for a season or two and then become less dominant or disappear, only to return once again.
Amid national reports characterizing this winter as the worst for the flu since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the county department released a statement January 29 noting, among other things, that the typical flu season doesn't peak until February.
"While all influenza viruses undergo frequent genetic changes, the changes that have occurred in influenza A (H3N2) viruses have more frequently resulted in differences between the virus components of the flu vaccine and circulating influenza viruses", the CDC statement said. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
House GOP works to avert shutdown
But its fate in the House remains unclear, with both Democrats and Republicans facing internal party divisions over the deal. Senate leaders said that they do not want to shut down the government again and see little risk that it would occur.
No flu-related deaths have been reported publicly in the Triad and Northwest N.C. Some county health directors have declined to disclose flu-related deaths, citing DHHS privacy policies.
On the flip side, the department wants people to know that it's not too late to receive a flu vaccine, which it posits is the best protection against the respiratory-illness-inducing virus.
The CDC is calling this the worst flu outbreak in 8-years and if you've had the flu already, there's a chance you could get it again.
"The only generic shortages we have experienced to date are with the Tamiflu suspension, and only sporadically", said Jennifer Tryon, chief pharmacy officer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. 2017 saw more cases of flue than any of the previous five years.
"We have 2,000 bottles of brand-name liquid, but insurance companies have not indicated a willingness to pay for that".
"We are not charging a penalty for going with the brand option, but Tamiflu is simply more expensive due to it being a non-generic".