Early and unusual flu season a risk for persons who vape, have chronic disease, more

Houston Methodist has medical experts available to discuss the below topics and trends related to flu season.

This flu season is off to an early and unusual start

A high number of flu cases this season are being caused by a virus strain known as influenza B. Typically, influenza A appears early in the season and influenza B follows in the spring.  According to the CDC, it has been 15 years since a flu season has started with influenza B. Houston Methodist Infectious Disease Physician Sarfraz Aly, MD, is available to comment on this unusual flu season, beginning early and with influenza B.

Flu symptoms can mimic the signs of EVALI, the vaping lung injury

Cigarette smokers are more likely to catch the flu and suffer from more severe symptoms than nonsmokers. Widespread vaping has only been around for about a decade, so there’s much less research on how vapers get through a flu season. However, recent studies suggest that e-cigarette vapor can impair the lungs’ natural ability to fight viral infections such as the flu. Vaping may worsen symptoms and increase the risk of complications.

While data is still emerging, e-cigarette use may increase the risk for flu and certainly worsen respiratory symptoms if one does contract the virus. It may be difficult to distinguish flu symptoms from EVALI, the lung injury that has been widespread among e-cigarette users.

The rise of vaping has been largely driven by young adults. E-cigarettes are now a common sight on college campuses across the U.S. Persons who vape are strongly encouraged to get the flu shot, because the habit could put them at greater risk of complications. Houston Methodist Pulmonologist, Zeena Safdar, MD, is available to comment on this topic.

Despite early flu season, it’s not too late to get the vaccine. It can also help prevent a heart or lung event in persons with these chronic conditions

Despite the early start to flu season, it’s not too late for people to get a flu shot. It’s especially important for individuals living with a chronic disease. For example, for a person with heart disease the flu vaccine can help to reduce the risk of experiencing another cardiac event. The vaccine can also prevent exacerbation of a lung event in persons with chronic lung disease since the flu can be a trigger for underlying lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The flu vaccination can also reduce overall hospitalizations for persons with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma. Houston Methodist primary care physician, Johneca Broussard, MD, is available to comment more on this topic.

Online flu tracker monitoring flu activity in Houston area, showing glimpse of an early, unusual season

According to the CDC, 12 U.S. states, including Texas, are reporting high levels of flu activity and 15 states are reporting moderate activity. Houston Methodist’s flu tracker contains flu epidemiology data covering its system, which includes eight hospitals, 8 freestanding emergency care centers and 37 outpatient clinics serving the greater Houston area, the state’s largest metropolitan area. Houston Methodist Pathologist Wesley Long, MD, PhD, is available to comment on the flu tracker, now tracking its second flu season.

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