MINNEAPOLIS - Health officials say we could be in for a rough flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting more than 7,000 cases of influenza in the U.S. so far this season, more than double the number this time last year.
Oklahoma, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Georgia are currently experiencing widespread flu outbreaks. Minnesota is currently seeing only local activity. December and February are commonly the flu season peaks in the U.S.
What's worse? The flu vaccine this year may not be all that effective. It's the same formula used during Australia's most recent flu season -- which is typically what the U.S. will face -- and was only 10 percent effective against influenza A (H3N2).
"While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by about 40% to 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the vaccine viruses," the CDC says.
"I think it's disappionting, there's no question it's disappointing," said Dr. Mark Schleiss, a professor and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "This is part of the nature of influenza vaccination. Every year you make the best educated guess that you can knowing that this is a virus that changes all the time. We need more research and development and better strategies for influenza vaccination, no question about it."
As far as vaccine supply is concerned, manufacturers projected they would provide between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable vaccine for the U.S. market, the CDC reports.
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season. The recommendation to not use the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) was renewed for the 2017-2018 season.
Dr. Schleiss says those at an elevated risk from the flu can also ask their doctors about the enhanced potency influenza vaccine.
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