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Early Signs Positive For Upcoming Flu Season

TheCenters for Disease Control and Prevention predicted this year’s flu vaccine would be “much better” suited to fight circulating strains of the flu virus, according to Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital.

“So far it looks like [the virus and vaccine] will be well matched, and that usually means the efficacy rate will be better,” Itskowitz said.

He added, however, that vaccines’ effectiveness can never be truly predicted.

“The flu virus is notoriously unpredictable, and things can change in the middle of the [flu] season,” he said.

Itskowitz said the flu season usually begins in October and lasts through March.

The effectiveness of last year’s flu vaccine was notably low—in only 20 percent of cases did the vaccine work, according to Itskowitz.  

The flu virus undergoes DNA mutations which renders existing vaccines useless, especially mutations that happen during the flu season.

“We’re constantly trying to catch up with [the virus],” he said.

According to statistics from the CDC, between five and twenty percent of the U.S. population will contract the flu virus each year.

In the 2014-15 flu season, there were 55,383 reported flu cases in Pennsylvania, according to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Itskowitz said that there are about twenty to thirty-thousand deaths caused by the flu each year in the U.S.

He said that those most vulnerable to the virus are young children and the elderly, and that getting a flu shot is not only important to protecting oneself but also to protecting the community as a whole.

“Even if you don’t get sick from the flu, but by you getting the vaccine you could potentially protect other people as well,” Itskowitz said.