'Flu shot Friday' event provides free flu vaccines across Tennessee

Medical experts warn about new flu strain emerging

Medical experts warn about new flu strain emerging

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The flu vaccine is working better than doctors feared, but still is not especially effective, health officials said Thursday. The Tennessee Department of Health is urging all Tennesseans who have not yet received a flu shot this flu season to get one as soon as possible, as seasonal influenza remains widespread across the state. In CDC parlance, it means that getting the shot reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor because of flu by 36 percent.

But the good news is that it works better in kids. A study in Australia suggested the vaccine would be only about 10 percent effective against the H3N2 virus, and a preliminary study from Canada two weeks ago put that figure at 17 percent.

Schuchat said that the levels of people reporting influenza-like Illness, or ILI, are "around" what the USA experienced during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. This knowledge should help improve next year's vaccine effectiveness, he said.

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"It seems to be hitting harder on the East Coast", Wood said, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Adults with flu can spread the virus one day before symptoms appear to approximately one week after.

Totally preventing flu is not the only goal of vaccination: It also can reduce the severity of flu symptoms for people who do get sick, Monto said.

Of those who did have influenza, 43 percent had been vaccinated.

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What should you do if you feel sick?According to the CDC, most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. Monday, the Haverhill first grader became Massachusetts' first child to die of a flu-related illness. For the last week of confirmed data (Jan. 28 through February 3), the CDC reported the highest rate of hospitalization for flu ever recorded since the current system was implemented in 2005.

In any case, this year does not appear to be the worst recent year for overall vaccine effectiveness.

Ultimately, scientists say the only real solution is a "universal" influenza vaccine that would not only protect against seasonal flu but also guard against a future pandemic. "We may be on track to reach or even exceed those records", said Anne Schuchat, CDC acting director. This year, all the strains are known, even expected.

"The strains that are circulating are the strains we predicted". Groups of people come from the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere to decide which strain of flu will be prominent during the winter season. "There is a vaccine specific for people who are older that gives you a higher dose". Some are stronger for older people with weaker immune systems and some are made using newer technology. The U.S. government, he said, should invest in research and large clinical trials that explore better ways to make flu vaccines.

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