Experts say this flu season will be a bad one

It is becoming increasingly clear that the United States will be hit by a particular strain of influenza called H3N2, the same strain which has just wreaked havoc in Australia, and was responsible for the four most deadly flu seasons in the last 10 years.

Flu season is building momentum in ME, with both outpatient medical visits and hospitalizations on the rise.

Flu is now widespread in Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and MA.

"It's still early", said State Epidemiologist Siiri Bennett.

It's official: welcome to flu season. "They're just telling you there's an iceberg there".

It seems like everyone is catching a case of the sniffles or worse, as the start of flu season is upon us. Next are, in order, York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties.

Four states are reporting widespread outbreaks of the flu.

And a report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the flu shot is not working as well as usual this year - at least based on evidence from Australia.

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As of November 25, nearly 2,100 lab-confirmed cases had been detected in various parts of the country, of which 84 per cent were influenza A. Those infections resulted in 371 hospitalizations, including 21 ICU admissions, and eight deaths, the report says.

Experts say there's still plenty of time to benefit from getting a flu vaccine, which are widely available at medical offices, pharmacies and other sites.

Last year's flu vaccine attacked the strain of the flu that was most prominent.

"Even if the vaccine is only 10 percent effective against H3N2, the vaccine does protect against other strains that are circulating", he said. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said getting a shot this year is crucial. "That's why we take the flu very seriously". "Once it's here, it'll spread like a brushfire".

The first step in the Universal Flu Vaccine Initiative is conducting detailed observations of the immune responses of flu vaccine recipients about a week after their initial vaccination.

"It hits you like a freight train", she said. During the last week of November, the vast majority — 80 percent — of lab-confirmed influenza tests in the US were H3N2 viruses, according to the Center for Disease Control.

It is impossible to contract a case of flu from the vaccine.

Researchers found antibodies elicited by the vaccine in ferrets and humans "did a poor job of neutralizing H3N2 viruses that circulated last year". "And at the end of the day, to know that we might be able to protect the most vulnerable around us with a universal influenza vaccine - that's a reason to get excited about science".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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