When the Flu Outpaces the Shot
Perhaps you’ve heard: this season’s flu shot is a bit of a bust. The reasons something like this fails can be myriad and may take years to fully analyze, but the results don’t lie. Although the shot has provided some protection, its success rate is far lower than many researchers had hoped to see.
At the current time, most scientists are pointing to a failure of prediction as the most likely culprit. The influenza strain considered most likely to spread failed to increase in dramatic numbers, while mutated versions of the flu seem to have taken hold instead:
The advisory sent Wednesday said 52% of the 85 influenza virus samples collected and analyzed from October 1 through November 22 were different than the virus strains included in this year’s vaccine, indicating a mutation, or drift, of the strain.
This is serious news for some people, especially given the fact that the flu strain that does seems to be afflicting more people, Influenza A H3N2, is especially virulent, and considered more likely to lead to hospitalization.
As with all things in science, flu vaccine prediction is never 100% certain. Researchers look at global trends, likely vectors and possible mutations as they plan each season’s vaccine, and some years they have more success than others. It’s still not a bad idea to get the shot, however, as it may protect you from certain types of flu and older bugs in circulation.
And there is other good news:
Overall, flu activity across the country is currently low, according to the latest flu outbreak data from the CDC.
Still, if you have flu-like symptoms, be sure and see an internist or an ENT today.