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During a conference call held last month, Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said the H3N2 viruses have been reported and that has been cause for concern.
“We know that in seasons when H3 viruses predominant, we tend to have seasons that are the worst flu years, with more hospitalizations from flu and more deaths from the flu,” Frieden said.
Health professionals recommend getting the flu vaccine. However, less than half of Americans have been vaccinated, according to the CDC. The flu vaccination rate among young adults in Wisconsin is the lowest in the nation, according to a story by the Journal Sentinel.
Still, the H3N2 virus is different from the one included in the flu vaccine, Frieden said.
“They are different enough that we’re concerned that protection from vaccinations against these drifted H3N2 viruses may be lower than we usually see,” Frieden said. “Most of the other viruses identified are the same as the viruses covered by the vaccine.”
The CDC is still recommending that people get the flu vaccine, but Frieden also said once someone comes down with the flu a second tool is to use antiviral medications, especially if they are at high risk of serious flu complications or are very sick with flu symptoms.
Tamiflu, a prescription medication that can treat the flu, is in ample supply, according to Genentech, the company that manufactures the medicine.
“It’s especially important to get antiviral medicines quickly if you have flu. They work best when you start them within two days of the beginning of flu symptoms, and we strongly recommend that if doctors suspect the flu in someone who may be severely ill from the flu, they don’t wait for the results of a flu test before starting antivirals,” he said.
If you and your family still need to be vaccinated, here’s a Flu Vaccine Finder