This flu season could be severe, warned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because the virus strains which have seen to be active this year are not matched with the current vaccine. More people than usual, therefore, could be hit hard by flu in the months to come.
The most common virus strain this year is H3N2, which in the past has been linked to more severe seasons. About half the H3N2 viruses have mutations that make them different from the one targeted by the vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today. The H3N2 or the influenza A has mutated since the current flu shots were made.
Not only that, it is too late to make new vaccines which are capable of dealing with this aggressive staring of virus doing the rounds. The CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said it takes four months to make a new flu vaccine even using newer cell-based technologies, too long to be helpful in the current flu season.
Past seasons dominated by H3N2 strains of flu have been severe, and the worry is that without a good match in this year’s flu shot, many people could be hospitalized or die from flu this year, mentioned Reuters.
Inspite of the fact that the current flu shot will not provide complete protection from flu, Frieden encouraged people who have not yet been vaccinated not to avoid it, because it does offer partial protection against the mutated H3N2 virus and good protection from other strains that might become predominant later this year. CDC testing shows the vaccine offers good protection from about half of the H3N2 flu strains circulating, as well as H1N1 and influenza B strains.
While the vaccine’s ability to protect “this season may be reduced, we are still strongly recommending vaccination,” Joseph Bresee, the CDC’s head of Influenza Epidemiology, said in a statement today.
According to CDC estimates, 3,000 to 49,000 people lose their lives to seasonal flu each year. Nearly 139.7 million doses of 2014-15 flu vaccine had been distributed to the vaccination providers in the U.S. by November 14.