Flu vaccines just 25% effective against worst strain this year, CDC says

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Flu continues to ravage the United States in one of the worst flu seasons in recent years. Dr. Pechon says she's encountered patients who believe the flu shot can give you the flu.

Each year, around 50 percent of all children under 5 years old who die from the flu were previously healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is 59 percent effective in protecting kids ages 6 months through 8 years from the H3N2 flu virus.

Because of the vaccine's limited effectiveness, the use of antiviral medications to treat flu patients is especially important this season, according to the CDC. It was better against the other viruses, at 67 percent against H1N1 and 42 percent against influenza B viruses, she said. In every other age group, the numbers were low, falling in a range that made them essentially ineffective in preventing flu, statistically speaking.

Every year there is a choice for an individual to make for themselves and possibly their families: to get the flu shot, or to not get the flu shot. But the viruses can mutate in the eggs, and researchers are finding vaccine from the egg-grown viruses is not a good match to the H3N2 flu bugs in people. In Australia, for example, its effectiveness against H3N2 was pegged at 10 percent, and in Canada at 10 to 20 percent. Children under the age of 6 months can not get vaccinated for the flu, so they need protected in other ways.

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A flu warning sign and a hand sanitizer station now greet visitors in the lobby of Cooper University Hospital in Camden as the hospital deals with an unusually busy flu season. About two in five Americans were vaccinated against this season's flu by early November. Despite medical professionals' almost universal recommendation that patients get the flu vaccination, the percentage of those who opt out continues to rise.

"Washington has seen a lot of the H3N2 strain of flu, which causes more severe illness in young children and those over 65 years old", said Lindquist.

Doctor visits also are up.

"During the 2014-15 season, when vaccine efficacy against medically attended illness caused by any influenza virus was less than 20 percent, vaccination was estimated to prevent 11,000-144,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 300-4,000 influenza-associated deaths", the CDC team wrote.