Why is the flu so severe this season? Let’s start at the beginning: rewind to February 2014. In order to get enough of a head start on manufacturing such a huge volume of flu vaccines, experts study tracking and surveillance data to predict which strains of the flu will be the biggest threat in the fall. Unfortunately, predicting the next season’s flu strain doesn’t rely just on brains, but also on luck. And if the stars don’t align, the flu vaccine may not match up with the flu that goes around.
This year, after predictions were made, one particular strain of influenza- called H3N2- started to drift, or change. H3N2 is the most common strain of the flu currently circulating around the United States. Because of this drift in the virus, the flu vaccine isn’t as effective this year. And while scientists are frustrated that this year’s predictions weren’t quite on the mark, there really isn’t a better predictive model out there.
I’ve heard quite a few people say, “It’s a good thing I didn’t waste my time getting a flu shot, it doesn’t work anyway.” Not true. The flu vaccine will still offer some coverage against the flu, just not as much as the average flu vaccine would provide during a good year (60-65% coverage). The take home message? Get your flu shot, but in the event that you do get the flu, see your doctor for antiviral medications that can shorten your recovery time.
Read more about it here.