Scientists’ predictions about which flu virus strains to include in this season’s vaccine appear to have been spot on.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this season’s vaccine is a good match for the virus strains in circulation. That means if you’ve been vaccinated against the flu, you’re likely to be well-protected.
Millions of Americans sickened by flu
Despite this good news, the CDC reports that as of January 5, 2019, 30 states have seen widespread flu activity, with 17 showing regional activity. Between 6 and 7 million people have gotten sick with the flu. About half of those sought medical care for their illness and up to 84,000 have been hospitalized because of the flu.
Each year, several flu viruses can be in circulation. Some cause more severe illness than others. The exact strains present change from year to year. So, scientists develop the flu vaccine to protect against the three or four strains of influenza virus most likely to cause illness during an upcoming flu season.
This season’s flu shot contains four strains, in what’s known as a “quadrivalent” vaccine.
The CDC reports that the primary influenza viruses this season are similar to the strains included in the flu vaccine.
So far, 81 percent of the flu specimen samples tested by the CDC turned out to be the milder H1N1 influenza strain. But almost 20 percent of people have still gotten the H3N2 flu, which causes much more severe symptoms.
Is it too late to get the flu vaccine this year?
The flu season in the United States peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May.
Therefore, it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. We’re just starting to see increased activity in Iowa, so it’s definitely a good opportunity right now to protect yourself. By getting vaccinated you could prevent the flu altogether, or you could get a milder form of the flu.
What else can I do to protect myself and my family?
Good “respiratory etiquette” and good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of flu. This includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or onto the sleeve of your upper arm, not onto your hands.
You should also wash your hands frequently using soap and water, especially when you’re in public places or around sick people.
You’re a lot more likely to get the flu from touching something that somebody else touched or from shaking hands, than from somebody sneezing or coughing on you.