Doctors concerned with fast start, severity of flu season

NEW YORK (WCMH) — Early indications this year point to a more severe flu season than last.

According to the Center for Disease Control, four states already have widespread flu activity, compared to no activity this time last year.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and who is involved in the CDC’s flu surveillance network, tells TODAY that this year’s strain appears to be the H3N2 form, which can producer more severe illness.

“Typically in years when the predominant strain is H3N2, there are more hospitalizations, more severe disease and people tend to get sicker,” said Dr. Michael Ison, a professor of infectious disease and organ transplantation at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Another contributing factor to the severity of the flu this season is the vaccine was has only been 10 percent successful at preventing illness from H3N2.

“It is possible that we will experience low vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) viruses and a relatively severe influenza season if they predominate,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and colleagues wrote in an article published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, doctors continue to stress the importance of the flu shot. While it may not be as effective against the H3N2 strain, it still protects at a higher rate against other strains. Also, it helps people who contract the flu, get only a milder and less dangerous form of the illness.

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