Flu season off to an early - and nasty - start

You keep hearing it's time to get your flu shot. But new research shows this year's vaccine isn't as effective as last year's

For scientists like me who study the flu virus as part of the World Health Organization's team responsible for developing the vaccine each year, this time of year is also our "World Series" when we must be on top of our game, ready to prepare the public with the best medical and scientific information available.

However, Dr. Izaddoost said this is "fake news".

'Immunization programs should work with community leaders to promote vaccination, ensure all members have access to flu vaccination, and ensure that all members understand the importance of flu vaccination in preventing disease, ' the authors said. Prior to that, the county had logged 34 cases in the entire nine weeks of this year's flu season. This means that 9 in 10 people may still get sick with the flu after getting the vaccine.

'Continued efforts are needed to increase the percentage of the population vaccinated during the next few months in order to reduce the burden of flu, ' the authors of the CDC report said.

Flu season has arrived earlier than it did previous year - just in time for the holidays - and health officials are concerned that this season could bring a severe outbreak.

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Health officials like Maggie Hall, with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, say that could be an early indication of a more severe influenza season early next year. "Typically, we don't see flu starting to arrive in Pima County until February or March". In 2016, the vaccine was 39% effective against all flu viruses and just 32% effective against the riskier H3N2 strain. "Whenever we have a season that's predominately H3N2, we tend to have more outbreaks".

"A universal vaccine would use conserved proteins of the virus - so it wouldn't change - or would change very little and then we would have the immunity for a long time", said Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System.

While it's too early for disease control experts to evaluate the efficacy of this year's vaccine, health officials say that even in seasons when the flu vaccine is not a ideal match for the most common strain of the virus floating around that year, people who are vaccinated experience less severe symptoms if they do become infected. "This year, it started as early as September", Izaddoost said.

Richard Webby, PhD, is a member of the infectious disease department at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and one of a select group of scientists responsible for determining which flu vaccines will be put into circulation each year. "Therefore, you have much more closeness between people, making them more contagious if they are ill, especially during the holidays".

Vaccines are usually less effective when the H3N2 strain is involved.

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