HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Each year, scientists use laboratory samples and global surveillance to identify what types and strains of influenza virus are likely to circulate the following influenza season. Last year, surveillance data showed that 52 percent of the predominant A strain (H3N2) virus, collected and analyzed in the United States had drifted.
What does this mean?
Historically, when the predominant circulating influenza virus drifts, a decrease in vaccine effectiveness is observed and more illness, hospitalizations and deaths can occur.
What about this season’s influenza vaccine?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director Tom Frieden, this season’s influenza vaccine will more closely match the H3N2 strain. H3N2 strains have been associated with even worse illness and even higher mortality. Not surprisingly, last year’s flu season, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations among people age 65 years or older was the highest recorded in the 10 years since the CDC began tracking this measure. The H3N2 strains also hit children hard. The CDC reported 145 lab-confirmed pediatric influenza deaths last season.
The CDC director urges Americans to get vaccinated this year.
“Even in a year when the flu virus isn’t well-matched, it remains the single best thing you can do to protect you, your family, and your community against influenza”, Frieden said.
Tricare beneficiaries can get vaccinated at one of the many network pharmacies listed on the “Find a Pharmacy” feature on the Tricare website at http://www.express-scripts.com/Tricare/pharmacy/findpharmacy.shtml.