Flu shot less effective after strain mutated, says CDC

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 4, 2014)-- Health officials fear there may be more flu-related deaths this year following a change in one strain of the flu virus.

Every year, the World Health Organization picks the top three strains to create a flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control recently released an advisory, explaining that about 52 percent of the influenza A (H3N2) viruses have “drifted from the H3N2 vaccine virus" making this year’s flu shot less effective.

“The viruses are living, constantly evolving organisms,” explained Melissa McMasters, coordinator of the immunization infectious disease program for the Marion County Health Department. “They want to get into different hosts and so they kind of evolve making them sometimes more virulent, sometimes more worrisome.”

The strain could spell trouble for vulnerable patients.

“It does tend to cause significant illness, hospitalizations, and even death in very young individuals, very old individuals, and those with current chronic medical conditions,” McMasters explained.

Before people decide to skip the flu shot, McMasters said you should know that the current flu shot is still reasonably effective against the other two dominant strains. Additionally, a new updated vaccine wouldn’t be released until next flu season, because of how long it takes to produce.

“(The vaccine) is still highly effective, again, because you`re talking about two strains that are pretty well matched and there`s some cross protection even from the strain that might have drifted slightly."

If you do start to see symptoms, the CDC is pushing the use of an anti-viral like Tamiflu and Relenza. You should consult your doctor.

The Marion County Public Health Department wants to remind everyone that it’s not too late to get a seasonal flu shot. To help people receive the critical protection offered by the flu vaccine, the health department will host a free flu shot clinic on Friday, Dec. 12 from Noon-4 p.m. at its community building located at 4012 N. Rural St.