The flu season is likely to get worse in the United States in the coming year, according to health officials. To be exact, flu incidents are expected to peak in December and last until February 2018, as reported by NPR. The medical community is particularly concerned about the H3N2 predominant influenza strain on account of its resistance to vaccines. The flu vaccine that was developed to resist the strain was only 10 percent effective in Australia.
That said, health experts are still advising the American public to get a flu shot as soon as possible. According to recent data, those who receive the flu shot are likely to suffer less severe symptoms. Studies also show that most children who die of influenza were those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
While the flu vaccine has been proven to be less effective in Australia, it could still be more effective if administered in the U.S., according to Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist at the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason for this is because the H3N2 strain dominating the country could be slightly different from the one that spread in Australia. Flannery, however, warns that constant vigilance is still the best course of action.
“It could be that we’re going to have a severe season — and we have to prepare for that,” Flannery says. “But it’s early to make a prediction for this season.”
U.S. officials believe that they have a much better system for determining a vaccine’s effectiveness. Last year, the flu vaccine was 32 percent effective against the strain in the United States. Lastly, the citizens of the United States have probably developed stronger resistance to the strain since their population has a higher rate of vaccinations compared to the Australian population. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said that Australia’s health officials weren’t as aggressive in their use of vaccinations in their campaign against the H3N2 strain.
The CDC has confirmed that flu incidents have steadily increased in the last few years. By the end of November this year, health officials have confirmed increased flu cases in Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts. That said, citizens will be relieved to know that the total number still falls short of the national baseline.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all people 6 months and older should be vaccinated annually with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).