Nursing & Healthcare News

Get Your Flu Shot ASAP

Bad Australian flu season may signal trouble for the U.S.

A nurse is holding a needle near a patient's arm and getting ready to give a vaccine

Have you gotten a flu shot yet? The CDC recommends getting vaccinated before Halloween, as experts warn we may be in for another severe flu season.Have you gotten a flu shot yet? The CDC recommends getting vaccinated before Halloween, as experts warn we may be in for another severe flu season.

Sniffles Down Under

Since the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter during our summers and vice versa, their flu season also precedes ours. If Australia’s most recent flu season is a preview of what the U.S. can expect, we could be facing a rough winter. Australia suffered a record number of influenza cases this year, due in part to what epidemiologists call “vaccine mismatch.”

Nursing Education

Because there are so many different strains of influenza, vaccine selection is always a gamble: Public health officials must decide months in advance which three or four strains will be the next season’s biggest threats. If any of those guesses are wrong, the flu vaccine’s effectiveness will be much lower. It now appears that’s what happened in Australia.

Two of the four strains the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended for this year’s Southern Hemisphere flu shots were different from the strains that hit Australia, prompting WHO to change its recommendations for next year.

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A Gamble Worth Taking

Unfortunately for us, the influenza A/H3N2 strain the FDA finally selected for this season’s U.S. flu shots — a last-minute change that delayed the shipment of about 70 million vaccine doses — won’t provide much protection against the Australian H3N2 strain.

While this may be bad news, it shouldn’t discourage anyone from getting a flu shot as soon as possible. With diseases as prevalent as influenza, even a partially effective vaccine can make a big difference.  A recent paper in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report estimates that during the 2017–18 flu season (which was also quite severe), flu shots prevented 7.1 million illnesses, 109,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths.


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