LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You better brace yourself because this year's flu season is off to an ugly start.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7,000 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, which is more than double the number this time last year. Flu is currently widespread in four states, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Massachusetts, the CDC reports. In Kentucky the flu is regional and in Indiana it is sporadic.
What's concerning is this year's flu shot may not be up to the task. It is the same formulation that was used during Australia's most recent flu season - which typically sets a pattern for what the U.S. will face - and it was only 10 percent effective there.
Health experts say it appears the dominant strain will be H3N2, which can produce more severe illness Even if the flu vaccine is just 10 percent effect against H3N2, a flu shot is especially important for adults aged 50 and older.
Norton Healthcare Dr. Teresa Crese says whatever the percentage, some protection is better than nothing.
"I think you are still having coverage and protection against flu," Dr. Crese said. "What we do see is even if the strains are not perfectly well matched for what is circulating there is some overlap protection benefit that you gain from the vaccine."
CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.
However, while vaccinated people can still get sick, generally they get a milder and less dangerous form of the illness.