Flu Season At Earliest Start in a Decade

Posted at: 12/04/2012 6:51 PM
Updated at: 12/04/2012 6:55 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 News) -- Well did you know that this week is National Influenza Vaccine Week? If you haven’t had your flu shot, you might want to.

The Center for Disease Control says this year’s flu season hasn’t started this early in nearly a decade.
“If it starts earlier, it usually lasts longer,” said Katie Woge, Pharmacy Manager at Walgreens.     

2003-2004 was the last time the flu season started this early. The strain that year was H3N2 and caused more than 48,000 deaths. Doctors say they’re seeing a similar strain this year.

"That's of concern. When you have an early start to the year and when you have this particular strain. That's a bad combination of events," said Dr. Gregory Poland, the Director of Mayo Clinic Vaccine Group. He is also a consultant for the CDC and says Olmsted County is just starting to see the flu.

"H3n2 can cause hospitalization, illness, and disability across the age spectrum,” says Poland.

But there is some good to go with the bad.

"The good sign of the coin, or the opposite side of the coin is that we have a way in which to prevent this,” he added.

Each year a different vaccine is made to fight the flu. Nine months before the flu season is to begin, vaccine researchers look at flu strains around the world to try and predict which one they should target. Some years they get it wrong, but not this year.

"This particular sub-strain of H3N2 is what's in the vaccine,” said Poland.

And now is the time to get the vaccine if you haven’t already.

"With people waiting a little longer to get their flu shots, it takes a full two weeks before they get their immunity. So now you're running the risk of more people getting sick,” said Woge.  

"Knowing that you could prevent it with the second that it takes, seems like an easy choice to make,” added Poland.

Despite misconception, Dr. Poland says pregnant women should also get their flu shot.