This year’s flu season is off to a fast start and early indications suggest that it may be more severe than the previous season, NBC News reported.
Widespread flu activity is currently in four states where last year there were none at this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Dr. William Schaffner, who is involved in the CDC’s flu surveillance network in Tennessee, has noticed cases of influenza picking up "dramatically" in the last week.
Even worse, it appears the dominant strain will be H3N2, which can produce more severe illness, said Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Unfortunately, the flu vaccine available in the United States this year was only 10 percent effective in preventing illness from H3N2. However, while vaccinated people can still get sick, generally they get a milder and less dangerous form of the illness. Also, the vaccine protects against other flu strains.
Dr. Jeremy Rowell at Medical City Arlington says they've already seen severe cases of the flu, mainly in elderly people.
It's why he and others advise to not dismiss the flu shot.
The vaccination can help lessen the severity of the illness, which is important for children and people over the age of 50 with underlying health conditions, as these populations are more likely to suffer from flu complications like pneumonia.
"They don't have the reserves like we do to help, support their system when that happens. That is why we encourage those populations to get the vaccination," says Dr. Rowell.