A severe flu illness is spreading fast as this year’s strain leaves 18 children dead, where the virus is present in 41 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depending on the individual, a vaccine is 60 to 70 percent effective in only healthy people.
“Flu season started about a month earlier than we usually see and it’s consistently picked up over the last few weeks,” says Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC. “In fact, most states are experiencing moderate or severe levels of flu activity.”
The seasonal influenza vaccine in the Northern Hemisphere’s 2012-2013 season safeguards against A (H1N1), A (H3N2) and B. The dominant strain this season, H3N2, can cause more server sickness than the other two.
“We tend to see more severe flu when we have this particular strain circulating,” Skinner says. “In years past, when we’ve seen this strain circulate, we tend to see more illness in children and the elderly.”
The CDC says the flu vaccine is well-matched to the 2012-2013 flu strains. But like any medicine, it is not always 100 percent effective. Depending on the individual, Skinner says, the flu vaccine is 60 to 70 percent effective in healthy people but could be less effective in the elderly and in people with underlying medical conditions.
“But it’s the best medicine against the flu and we encourage everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated every year,” Skinner says. “It’s the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself.”