By Julia Ries
- Two flu strains are overlapping each other this flu season.
- This means you can get sick twice from different flu strains.
- While the flu vaccine isn't a perfect match, it's the best defense against the flu.
To say this flu season has been abnormal is an understatement.
Double-Barreled Flu Season<p>A double-barreled flu season occurs when two flu outbreaks overlap one another, a pattern which is very unusual, according to flu experts.</p><p>Last year, for example, we saw A/H1N1 infections peak early, followed by another wave of A/H3N2 infections.</p><p>Though the predominant strains are different this year, we're seeing the same pattern play out: Activity took off with B/Victoria and now that second wave of A/H1N1 is coming for us, according to Schaffner.</p><p>"Around the country, my colleagues and I are seeing H1N1 come up strong, and it's now about 50-50 [with B/Victoria]," Schaffner told Healthline.</p><p>The most worrisome part of a double-barreled flu season is that you can get sick twice.</p><p>Just because you caught a B-strain flu doesn't mean that you're immune from the A strains.</p><p>"There will be the rare person who gets two flu infections in the same season — one with B and one with H1N1," Schaffner said.</p><p>Though there will be some protection within each strain — in that contracting an A strain will protect you against other A strains, and B strains will protect against other B's — there's not much cross protection.</p><p>A double-barreled season also means we're more likely to see a prolonged influenza season.</p>
What to Know About B and A Strains<p>The fact that B strains are predominating this year isn't just confusing, it's concerning as well.</p><p>B strains haven't hit this hard for nearly 30 years, since during the 1992–1993 season, the CDC told Healthline.</p><p>Additionally, we didn't see much of the B strain in the past couple of years, according to <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/norman-moore-908577a/" target="_blank">Dr. Norman Moore</a>, the director of infectious diseases for <a href="https://www.abbott.com/corpnewsroom/healthy-communities/your-kids-got-the-flu.html" target="_blank">Abbott</a>.</p><p>This means that many people — especially kids — have never been exposed to the strain, and consequently, don't have residual immunity against it.</p><p>"When there's a rarity, it actually sets you up for another bigger push to get it, because at that point, we really don't have anybody with any strong immunity going around, so we're all potential vessels for getting exposed and transmitting it," Moore said.</p><p>This is one of the reasons kids are being hit harder this year. They've never been exposed to this type of the flu — it's their first go around.</p><p>"These kids are just brand new to getting flu B," Moore said.</p><p>And because we haven't seen much of the B/Victoria strain in the past few years, this year's vaccine missed the mark.</p><p>"We thought initially the match was perfect, but it's not. It's off a little bit, and that means in many populations the vaccine is not going to function optimally," Schaffner explained.</p><p>Fortunately, the vaccine covers H1N1 well. According to Schaffner, the match to H1N1 is right on.</p><p>And because A strains circulate every year, most people have built up at least some "immune memory" to it — despite the fact these strains change and mutate each year.</p><p>"Our past experience with influenza viruses does give us some residual protection that lasts," Schaffner said.</p>
There’s Still Time to Get Vaccinated<p>"It's not too late," Moore said about the vaccine, noting that we still don't know for sure what's going to happen next.</p><p>If flu A continues to get worse, as predicted, the flu shot will protect you through the rest of the season.</p><p>And even though the vaccine isn't a perfect match to B strains, it can still help lessen the severity of the flu.</p><p>"If you've been vaccinated, and even if there is a mismatch, you are likely to have a less severe infection when you get it," Schaffner said.</p><p>Remember: By getting immunized, you're not only protecting yourself, but others as well who may be more at risk for developing severe complications — like the elderly, pregnant women, children under 2, and immunosuppressed people.</p><p>"When we protect ourselves, we are really protecting those around us," Moore said.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Health experts say this has been an extremely unusual flu season. It started very early with a strain that we typically don't see much of. Now, another strain is building momentum and creating a path for what's known as a double-barreled flu season, in which two types of flu strike back to back. With a second wave coming, flu experts say it's not too late to get vaccinated before things pick up again.</p>
- 9 Dishes Chefs Eat When They're Sick - EcoWatch ›
- Flu Now Widespread in 45 States, What to Know - EcoWatch ›
- What the Flu Does to Your Body, and Why It Makes You Feel So Awful ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Laura Haynes
Every year, from 5 to 20 percent of the people in the U.S. will become infected with the influenza virus. An average of 200,000 of these people will require hospitalization and up to 50,000 will die. Older folks over the age of 65 are especially susceptible to influenza infection, since the immune system becomes weaker with age. In addition, older folks are also more susceptible to long-term disability following influenza infection, especially if they are hospitalized.
According to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year, and because of the material they're made from, most municipal recycling centers don't accept them (more on this below).
The most sustainable option is to skip the bag altogether. You can also make your own reusable produce bags out of old T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase them new, here are our recommendations for the best reusable produce bags on the market today.
Eco Joy<p>If you're making the switch to more sustainable shopping bags and want a variety of products to use, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Sandwich-Biodegradable-Eco-Drawstring/dp/B003PK4W3I/ref=sr_1_36?crid=3TDUCB8ZOM7WI&dchild=1&keywords=produce+bags+grocery+reusable&qid=1613484643&sprefix=produce+bags%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-36" target="_blank">Eco Joy Cotton Reusable Produce Bags</a> set is a great place to start. The set comes with three mesh drawstring bags, three muslin drawstring bags, a large mesh tote and a zippered sandwich-size pouch.</p><p>Each product is made with organic, non-GMO cotton that's ethically sourced in accordance with Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) standards. The cotton comes from India and Turkey, and the bags are hand-assembled in Canada by the owner of Eco Joy, so you can feel good about supporting a small business while reducing your environmental impact.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 300 Amazon reviews</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Zero-waste; Handmade in Canada; WRAP compliant; Machine washable</p>
Organic Cotton Mart<p>Some shoppers prefer to use mesh bags when shopping for fruits and veggies. We recommend checking out <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Best-Reusable-Produce-Organic-Cotton/dp/B07CK2TJKL/ref=sr_1_16?crid=10A7NM0LQ0B7E&dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1613483897&s=home-garden&sprefix=mesh+pro%2Cgarden%2C162&sr=1-16" target="_blank">Organic Cotton Mart's Reusable Cotton Mesh Produce Bags</a> if you're in this camp, as they're made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton.</p> <p>Mesh reusable produce bags can make the checkout process easier than muslin bags since you can see what's inside them without having to open them up. Plus, the tare weight (i.e., the weight of the empty bag that should be subtracted from the total weight of your produce to make sure you don't pay extra for using your bag) is printed right on the label of Organic Cotton Mart's bags, making everything that much more convenient.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.6 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable
Simple Ecology<p>On the other hand, if you just want to purchase muslin bags, we like <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Ecology-Reusable-Organic-Shopping/dp/B004UJ0U0C" target="_blank">Simple Ecology's Reusable Produce Bags</a>, which are also made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. Simple Ecology also has a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6AUMBG/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B01N6AUMBG&pd_rd_w=MA3ZS&pf_rd_p=cbc856ed-1371-4f23-b89d-d3fb30edf66d&pd_rd_wg=hVunQ&pf_rd_r=G6RTQ1Z5DKEY325MAJZ9&pd_rd_r=5d298b3a-1be7-4ebd-a9e1-d5d672a40497&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMzc4RVAxWjNLOTdCJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTc0NTAwMzBDMjFYOVJPTUpWSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjYyOTM4M0s4Vk81SVBPS1NFSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbF90aGVtYXRpYyZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=" target="_blank">starter kit</a> that comes with several reusable grocery bags if you're looking for more variety.</p> <p>The benefit of using muslin reusable produce bags is that, unlike mesh, there are no holes for small items to slip through. This means that in addition to larger produce, you can use them to purchase bulk foods like lentils, beans and rice — or even powders like flour or spices — without worrying about anything leaking. They're also best for keeping leafy greens fresh.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,500 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified packaging when purchased from manufacturer
ECOBAGS<p>Whether you're buying bread, fresh flowers, produce or all of the above, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/ECOBAGS-Market-Collection-Reusable-Natural/dp/B08KFGPGN5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ECOBAGS Market Collection Reusable Bag Set</a> is ideal for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/farmers-markets-coronavirus-safety-2645581711.html" target="_self">farmers market</a> shopping or large grocery hauls. The netted bags are durable, flexible, and pack down small so they're easy to keep in your car or purse.</p> <p>ECOBAGS is a woman-owned certified B Corp, which means it uses sound social and environmental practices. These bags come in packs of three or five and have a few different handle lengths and color options, but they're all made with GOTS-certified organic cotton.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating: </strong>Not applicable</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Certified B Corp; SA8000 certified for the protection of basic human rights of workers</p>