Doctors concerned with fast start, severity of flu season

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2010 file photo, a nurse practitioner prepares a flu vaccination in Rockville, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

NEW YORK (WCMH) — Early indications this year point to a more severe flu season than last.

According to the Center for Disease Control, four states already have widespread flu activity, compared to no activity this time last year.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and who is involved in the CDC’s flu surveillance network, tells TODAY that this year’s strain appears to be the H3N2 form, which can producer more severe illness.

“Typically in years when the predominant strain is H3N2, there are more hospitalizations, more severe disease and people tend to get sicker,” said Dr. Michael Ison, a professor of infectious disease and organ transplantation at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Another contributing factor to the severity of the flu this season is the vaccine was has only been 10 percent successful at preventing illness from H3N2.

“It is possible that we will experience low vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) viruses and a relatively severe influenza season if they predominate,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and colleagues wrote in an article published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

However, doctors continue to stress the importance of the flu shot. While it may not be as effective against the H3N2 strain, it still protects at a higher rate against other strains. Also, it helps people who contract the flu, get only a milder and less dangerous form of the illness. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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