CDC Urges Immediate Vaccination for Forthcoming Severe Flu Season

December 6, 2014
Krystle Vermes

In light of new data that shows the 2014-2015 flu season could be severe, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging immediate influenza vaccination for all unvaccinated individuals, as well as prompt antiviral drug treatment for those who develop flu and have a high risk of complications.

In light of new data that shows the 2014-2015 flu season could be severe, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging immediate influenza vaccination for all unvaccinated individuals, as well as prompt antiviral drug treatment for those who develop flu and have a high risk of complications.

“It’s too early to say for sure that this will be a severe flu season, but Americans should be prepared,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a press release. “We can save lives with a 3-pronged effort to fight the flu: vaccination, prompt treatment for people at high risk of complications, and preventive health measures, such as staying home when you’re sick, to reduce flu spread.”

According to the CDC, seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses have been the most common so far this year, and they were also predominant throughout the 2012-2013, 2007-2008, and 2003-2004 flu seasons that were characterized as “moderately severe.”

Roughly half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed by the CDC are drift variants, so the influenza vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced this year, increasing the risk of a severe flu season.

“While the vaccine’s ability to protect against drifted H3N2 viruses this season may be reduced, we are still strongly recommending vaccination,” said Joseph Bresee, chief of the Influenza Epidemiology and Prevention Branch at the CDC. “Vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses in past seasons. Also, vaccination will offer protection against other flu viruses that may become more common later in the season.”

Dr. Frieden said it is not too late for individuals to get vaccinated for this coming flu season. The CDC also recommends that young children and other high-risk patients consult with a health care professional promptly after showing flu symptoms, such as body aches, sniffles, and chills.