Brace yourselves: a key flu strain may be more aggressive this year, and experts say the vaccine could be dramatically less effective than in the past.
But flu viruses are constantly changing proteins on their surface to avoid being spotted, and the old technique is helping them.
"We have seen a little bit of an increase over the last couple of weeks, but nothing that stands out significantly", Mendez said.
"As we prepare for a potentially severe influenza season, we must consider whether our current vaccines can be improved and whether longer-term, transformative vaccine approaches are needed to minimize influenza-related morbidity and mortality", they wrote.
"Projects like this are why many of us do research", Creech said.
Added to that uncertainty is the question of how effective this season's vaccine may be in preventing people from getting the flu.
It is unclear yet if H3N2 will be the predominant flu strain to dominate the U.S. this year, but so far this strain has been responsible for the deaths due to flu from the winters of 2003-2004, 2007-2008, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.
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Some states are reporting widespread activity, and others, local activity.
It's the Ontario government that pays for the costs of flu vaccines so it paid for the replacements, he said. It's a less effective match for the B strains, which so far account for only a small handful of reported lab results in Maine. Said Patsy Kelso with the Vermont Department of Health.
Since the beginning of October, 144 flu cases had been reported to the Brazos County Health Department through November 25, as well as 176 influenza-like illnesses.
"It doesn't necessarily mean flu shots won't work here, or suggest how intense our flu season will be, but it's a good predictor", Crain stated.
"You can still get some partial protection just by having an antibody to those core components", Nelson said. There are three other strains represented in the vaccine, two of which are also circulating this year. We don't know because once you get the flu it decreases your immune system.
Last year's flu vaccine was updated to include the new version of this protein, but the egg-grown version had acquired a new mutation.
The faulty refrigerator stopped functioning properly October 6, its cooling mechanism running continuously instead of cycling on and off, causing temperatures to drop to -3.4 C, effectively destroying the potency of two of three types of flu vaccines it stored, both the conventional one and a high-dose variant used for those ages 65 and older.