This year's flu vaccine about 50% effective

Published: Feb. 20, 2020 at 3:43 PM EST
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this year's flu vaccine is providing substantial protective benefits, especially for children.

Flu vaccines are reducing doctor visits related to flu by 45% overall and 55% in children, according to preliminary estimates.

"This season has been more severe in children than in previous seasons. And that may have to do with the type of influenza that is circulating. Influenza B can be more severe in children," said Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with the CDC.

Flu vaccine effectiveness typically ranges from 40%-60%. This season got off to an early and unusual start with flu B viruses dominating. Now, a second wave of flu A H1N1 is hitting. So far, the vaccine appears to be less effective against H1N1 for younger adults.

In the U.S., there have been at least 26 million illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths from flu so far this season.

Health officials stress if you haven't already, it's not too late to get a flu shot because the season is far from over.

"Right now, the map of the U.S. looks pretty red and that means a lot of flu activity. Most of the areas have the highest flu activity we see during the season," Flannery said.

And it's worth the reminder: wash your hands, cover your cough and sneeze and stay home when you are sick to avoid spreading the virus.

The town strains of flu circulating this season tend not to be as dangerous to the elderly.