The first report of influenza in Nebraska this season came almost a month ago.
Epidemiologist Tom Haupt was asked to predict how hard the flu will hit in the months ahead.
“That’s actually a hard question to answer and I don’t know that there’s a distinctive one-sentence answer,” Haupt says. “Dealing more with the flu, we’re obviously looking more closely at the vaccine match. We’re hoping that the vaccine is going to be a very good match for us this year but it’s way too early to tell at this particular point.”
The vaccines differ from year to year as the experts try to target various strains of the flu that might hit. This season’s vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common, an influenza A (H1N1) virus, a second influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.
Haupt says the vaccines aren’t perfect.
“If it is a good match, as it was last year, we’re not going to have as bad of a season,” he says. “Two years ago, when we had the influenza H1, the vaccine match was not good, especially with the population over age 65. It was like a 10% efficacy rate.”
The first flu cases were reported in Nebraska in mid-October and the season is expected to peak anytime from December through early April.
Complications from the flu kill as many as 50,000 Americans every year. The experts say the best way to avoid the bug is to get vaccinated.