Yet, the vaccine remains worthwhile.
Colorado is currently coughing its way through yet another a bad flu season. With 1,582 people hospitalized, experts say that a mutated strain of the virus -- that vaccines have trouble defending against -- is to blame for the uptick in cases.
Throughout the year, the Centers for Disease Control works alongside 142 national influenza centers in 113 different countries to monitor and collect data on the flu, or "viral surveillance," as epidemiologists say. As it turns out, the strain responsible is the H3N2 -- a form often associated with a higher number of hospitalizations among at-risk populations.
Now H3N2 is among the strains targeted by the vaccine, but the H3N2 specimen can actually mutate during the vaccine production process, hindering the vaccine's ability to effectively defend against the strain, and preliminary reports from Australia suggest that this year's vaccine could be as little as 10 percent effective in defending against H3N2.
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Yet doctors continue to recommend getting a flu shot as it can help prevent the spread of other strains to at-risk populations.
“The influenza vaccine is not perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got,” says Dr. Ryan Oyer, an infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente. “It’s certainly the best strategy we have from a public-health perspective.” When it comes to preventing the flu as a whole, the CDC says that the flu vaccine is generally 40-60 percent effective.
So what do you do if you're one of the many to come down with flu-like symptoms? Well, beyond quarantining yourself and binge-watching your favorite TV series, you should visit your local urgent care. Not only will you help the CDC and the Colorado Department of Health gain insightful data, some urgent care facilities like OnPoint Urgent Care
in Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, and Aurora can prescribe anti-viral medications to help you recover faster if you are evaluated within the first 48 hours of symptom onset.
And by all means, avoid at-risk populations (i.e., seniors age 65+, children under 2, people who are immunosuppressed or have chronic conditions, women who are pregnant or postpartum [within 2 weeks], etc.), stay home from work for at least until you've gone 24 hours without running a fever. You know the rest: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze, etc., etc.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever tried retro-viral treatment for the flu? Did it work? If so, how well? Let us know in the comments below!