Worst flu season in a decade

The number of people with influenza-like illness this year remained stable from last week a first for this deadly flu season

This year, the influenza virus is particularly active and has lead to high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

Manufacturers have reported they have shipped more than 151 million doses of flu vaccines for this flu season. If you think you have the flu, contact your healthcare provider or Student Health Services and try to stay away from others as much as possible to prevent spreading the infection.

Though the flu has had a substantial national impact, the University Health Center has not been any busier than a normal flu season, according to Brunader. Most flu seasons start in the Southeast, in states like Florida, then move north and west.

It's never as good as we wish it were.

"It's terrible to see your child with a breathing mask on her face", said Stephanie Calvin, 35, of Mandeville, La., whose 4-year-old daughter has been sick with flu for four weeks. You're less likely to get the complications of pneumonia, having to be hospitalized, and dying.

Last year's flu season was deadly because the elderly immune response to the vaccine had been waning in recent years and the A-strain of the flu mutated mid-season, leaving even vaccinated people vulnerable, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said. However, because of the severity of this season, there have been questions raised about how well this year's flu vaccine worked. Whether it's peaking or not, flu season is still expected to last several more weeks. That season, public health officials believed that adaptations in egg-grown vaccines were the problem.

Instead, the human immune system seems to pick up on the presence of a flu strain - from either the vaccine or the flu itself - and respond as if it were whatever the first strain it encountered had been. These vaccines are specifically targeted at the strains, in particular the mutation, that took so many lives a year ago.

The Louisiana Department of Health announced that they are officially extending its free flu shots, and they will be available while supplies last. There is no question we need a better flu vaccine. In working to ensure vaccine quality, agency scientists have already confirmed that the genetic sequence of the influenza strains used by manufacturers to produce vaccines for this season were the same as those provided to them at the beginning of the production process. New vaccines grown without eggs, either in insect cells or dog kidney cells, are much less prone to developing mutations that can make them less protective against the flu.

That's a far cry from the commonly stated view that the flu shot doesn't work. In the meantime, the FDA is collaborating with federal partners and with industry to improve the manufacturing of the current generation of influenza vaccines.

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