You should still get a flu shot, CDC officials recommend—it just might not be as effective as they'd hoped, NBC News reports. Most cases of the virus this year are the result of a mutated variation of the H3N2 strain—so far this season's most commonly reported—and the vaccine isn't proving effective against it, the agency said in a health advisory sent to doctors last night. The warning said that 52% of the 85 flu samples collected between Oct. 1 and Nov. 22 were different than the viruses in the vaccine mix this year, CNN reports. The H3N2 virus is linked to more instances of hospitalization and death, especially for children, the elderly, and people with chronic health issues. "The flu is bad, and you want to do anything you can to prevent getting it and to prevent giving it to other people," a Manhattan pediatrician tells CNN.
Coming up with each year's vaccine is somewhat of a crapshoot. Health experts congregate earlier in the year to figure out which strains are proliferating and to predict which ones will continue on into flu season; they then create their vaccine cocktail out of those strains. But just because this year's mix may not be the most effective against the mutated (or "drifted") viruses doesn't mean you should blow off the shot completely: Scientists say the vaccine would still likely offer some "cross-protection," which would minimize patients ending up in the ER or dying, and it still is doing a decent job against H1N1 and other strains, NBC notes. The CDC also suggests doctors use the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza as a flu treatment option to reduce symptoms and hasten getting better, as well as a preventive treatment. (An isolated Amazon tribe immediately caught the flu when they ran into Brazilian scientists.)