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Deadliest flu season since 2010

Indiana Public Media via Flickr CC

The virus has taken 172 lives this season, making it the deadliest season since 2010, per the AP, and it is reaching a peak at 14,000 new infections each week, according to CBS. The CDC has a great interactive map to track states and flu activity this season.

The good news: The Centers for Disease Control reports this year's vaccine is closely matched for the main strain this year, influenza A, which includes predominantly H3N2 strains, and that there's still time left to get the shot. There are also some trailing cases of H1N1 this year.

The gamble: Remember, last year started out as an H3N2 year but picked up to be an H1N1 year. Not to fret since there is a safety net for that: based on FDA vaccine license records, H3N2 and H1N1 strains are included in all trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines licensed for this season. Plus there is still time to get vaccinated since flu season typically lasts until March and sometimes May.

How the vaccine selection works: A lot of the selection of the flu vaccine is guesswork. Every year…

  • The World Health Organization puts out its suggestion for which strain is most likely to infect in the Northern Hemisphere based on analysis of global circulation of flu strains
  • The FDA usually picks the same strain for vaccine makers to target in the U.S. This selection stems from analysis of which flu strains are popping up in the Southern Hemisphere and likely to migrate north, per the Washington Post.
  • Then the drugs are manufactured before the most recent flu season is over so that new flu vaccines can ship in time to doctors' offices and pharmacies.