Flu Vaccinations Are Recommended This Season

Flu season is here

Flu season seems to have arrived earlier than normal and there are reports that vaccine shots many received to prevent infection may be less effective than in the past.

But flu viruses are constantly changing proteins on their surface to avoid being spotted, and the old technique is helping them.

Flatheads public health officer Hillary Hanson said her office was surprised to see fatalities at this point in the season, given that influenza rates have just begun to pick up.

"Such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, so it's just so important to get your flu vaccine", said Pam McGowen a nurse practitioner at the Florida Department of Health, Bay County. "We generally start seeing an increase about now, and we'll gradually see more as time goes on". Those cases resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths each year. Strain-specific vaccination can be hit-or-miss even though the WHO's Global Influenza Surveillance Network attempts to forecast which strains look to cause the most misery.

In its December 1 weekly flu report, the CDC changed the state's activity rating from "regional" to "widespread", the worst rating among states so far this year. And in Australia, which used the identical vaccine as Canada's this past season, its effectiveness against H3N2 infection was far less - only about 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, the authors of NEJM report suggest a renewed effort to work toward better, more effective flu vaccines.

The health department said the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the illness, and noted that it can take up to two weeks after receiving the shot for antibodies to develop and the vaccine to be effective.

Almost 100 years ago, a horrific outbreak of influenza hit Philadelphia, infecting more than 47,000 residents.

Though the accuracy and effectiveness of each year's vaccine varies, this year's seems on track to provide good protection against the Influenza A strains now predominating, health officials say. The flu shot is encouraged for anyone ages 6 months or older.

The flu season is declared under-way once we have reached an above-average number of people with influenza symptoms (i.e. more than 2.2 percent of people).

If you do get flu, keep it to yourself, Mills said. There are three other strains represented in the vaccine, two of which are also circulating this year.

"People from those areas are getting ready to travel for the winter holidays, and they'll bring flu with them", Mills said.

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