Recent news about flu shot effectiveness causing confusion

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On Tuesday, we spoke with doctors about the flu shot, that might not be very effective this year.

However, the problem with flu is that the virus constantly changes.

In just the last week, 182 cases were reported.

Health officials say they are bracing for a severe flu season.

And because most people who show flu symptoms don't go to the doctor and get tested, state epidemiologist Alfred DeMaria cautioned those numbers represent only a small portion of actual cases.

Adding to the concern is a report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine that estimated the current vaccine is only about 10 percent effective against this year's flu strain.

While the CDC says flu activity is now low in the US, the peak of the season can occur anywhere from late November through March.

It is unclear yet if H3N2 will be the predominant flu strain to dominate the USA this year, but so far this strain has been responsible for the deaths due to flu from the winters of 2003-2004, 2007-2008, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.

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London and Middlesex County suffered the season's first two flu outbreaks last week, one in a hospital, the other in a long-term care facility. And in Australia, which used the identical vaccine as Canada's this past season, its effectiveness against H3N2 infection was far less - only about 10 per cent.

In recent years, it seems the flu has peaked in early spring, but it got an early start this year, she said.

San Diego County has more than three times the number of confirmed flu cases than this time past year, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

The weekly influenza surveillance report shows that of all ME counties, Penobscot County has the most flu activity, with 60 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and 24 hospitalizations. Everyone age 6 months and older is recommended to get a vaccination.

Nevertheless, the state is urging everyone to get a flu shot.

Despite those misgivings, she encourages the elderly and those with underlying heart and lung conditions or with suppressed immune systems, who are vulnerable to influenza and its complications, to get their shot to obtain "all the protection you can get".

"We want to continue to emphasize that vaccine is better than no vaccine and vaccine can prevent death, especially in children", Jackson said. If the vaccine isn't a close match to the strain of the virus that's actually circulating once fall and winter arrive, it won't be as effective at stopping the illness.

Some infectious disease researchers are blaming the outdated methods for cultivating flu vaccines.

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