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If you skipped getting an annual flu shot, it's not too late. And getting the shot is highly encouraged says Dr. Pritish Tosh, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist. While this flu season is less severe than last season, nearly 20 million Americans have become sick with the flu this season and 56 pediatric deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"This flu season is, by and large, less severe than it was last year," says Dr. Tosh. "That being said, last year was amongst the most severe influenza seasons we have seen in a long, long time. In general, seasonal epidemics caused by H1N1 strains are less severe than seasonal epidemics caused by H3N2 strains."
The predominant strain through most of the U.S. is the H1N1 strain. In general, seasonal epidemics caused by H1N1 strains are less severe than seasonal epidemics caused by H3N2 strains of the virus.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Pritish Tosh are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please 'Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.'
Dr. Tosh says, "In parts of the Southeast of the U.S., the predominant strain seems to be an H3N2 strain that only about 70 percent of those strains are well-matched to the vaccine strain. Depending upon which part of the country you are living in, some people are seeing a fairly mild influenza epidemic; whereas, some are seeing a little bit more severe."
Vaccination can help prevent infection and more severe outcomes for those who become ill. "We know that kids who have gotten vaccinated who get influenza anyway are far less likely to die, and we know that older adults who get the vaccine and get infected anyway are far less likely to have hospitalization or complications thereof," says Dr. Tosh.
The CDC recommends all people 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccine.