This year may not be the one to procrastinate on getting your flu shot, as experts are already predicting a nastier and longer flu season, according to a recent report from Popular Science. In fact, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that flu season usually starts in early winter, the agency’s latest influenza surveillance data suggests that the “official” flu season may already be underway. But, why is an earlier flu season cause for concern?
This year’s earlier flu season is worrisome because — depending on when most people will get their flu shots, how long it takes for those shots to be effective, and when this flu season will come to an end — it’s going to be harder for health experts to make sure everyone is protected. And because it’s notoriously difficult for health researchers to predict the timing, severity, and length of any flu season, it’s almost impossible to match the strain of flu used for the vaccine to the strain will actually cause most people to become ill — which makes tackling an earlier and perhaps harsher flu season all the more difficult.
Also, which is perhaps the most alarming, considering the fact that Australia’s flu season was so bad likely due to a mismatched vaccine, it might be a strong indicator for what will happen over here in the United States — especially because “we’re both using the exact same vaccine,” as Popular Science reported.
And because the virus changes so much and so often, it’s tricky to predict which vaccine to use. In fact, Popular Science health reporter Sara Chodosh recently wrote in a separate story, that the World Health Organization has to wait until the February before the flu season begins to give pharmaceutical companies guidance on which flu shot to make. And that still gives the virus a full six months to evolve.
World health officials tend to pay even closer attention to tiny changes in a range of markers to determine when and how hard flu season will hit. And according to Popular Science’s report this week, at least one of those markers — the number of flu-related illnesses reported to the CDC each week…