Flu vaccine not as effective against season’s dominant strain

The flu vaccine may not be as effective against this season’s most dominant strain of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Early data suggests that the flu season could be severe, the CDC says, with the H3N2 strain of the virus being the most common. That strain was predominant during the three flu seasons with the highest mortality levels in the past decade.

However, the strain has mutated (drifted) and only about half of cases match the vaccine, the CDC said.

Still, getting vaccinated is recommended.

“While the vaccine’s ability to protect against drifted H3N2 viruses this season may be reduced, we are still strongly recommending vaccination,” said Joseph Bresee, M.D., chief of the Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch at CDC. “Vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses in past seasons. Also, vaccination will offer protection against other flu viruses that may become more common later in the season.”

The CDC has listed Louisiana as a state where influenza is “widespread,” the highest classification of influenza activity on the report. Dr. Jackson Earle Hatfield, family health practitioner with St. Charles Parish Hospital, said that December through February is when the flu virus is most prolific.

Those at high risk from the flu include children younger than 5 years, especially those younger than 2 years; adults 65 years and older; pregnant women; and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease and kidney disease.

CDC recommends that people at high risk check with their doctor or other health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started in the first 48 hours after symptoms appear.

Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.


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