WASHINGTON - The main strain of the flu virus which is circulating currently doesn’t entirely match up with the flu vaccine that is being administered this year, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC clarifies that the current flu vaccine can still offer protection in some cases, and the agency encourages people not to skip out on getting the vaccine.
This year’s flu season started early and has been particularly severe.
Officials noticed an odd trend early on this flu season — the main strain of flu virus being passed around and causing infections was a type of influenza B, which usually does not become a problem until later in the season.
Multiple genetically distinct influenza B viruses have been circulating much more frequently and aggressively this year compared to the 2018-19 season.Influenze B strains are far less common causes of infections than influenza A strains (H1N1 and H3N2), but they are particularly dangerous for children.
When the CDC investigated a recent outbreak of influenza B infections in Louisiana, 95 percent of cases were linked to children age 18 or younger.
“One large pediatric health care facility in New Orleans (facility A) reported 1,268 laboratory-confirmed influenza B virus infections, including 23 hospitalizations from July 31 to November 21, 2019, a time when influenza activity is typically low,” the CDC report says. “During this period, Louisiana also reported one pediatric death associated with influenza B virus infection.”
Nationally, from Sept. 20 to Dec. 28, 2019, influenza B viruses accounted for 59.2 percent of positively identified influenza viruses reported by public health facilities.
Influenza activity is expected to continue for many more weeks in the U.S., according to the report, and the CDC warns that “additional hospitalizations and deaths, including among children, are expected to occur.”
The agency recommends that all children six months or older still receive the current flu vaccine, adding that it’s not too late to gain protective benefits from the vaccine for the 2019-20 season.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.