Flu shots may not be as effective this year

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Flu season is here and numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show cases are on the rise.

Several states are seeing moderate to high flu activity, with five children dying from the flu.

While Indiana is in the "minimal" category right now, local doctors are seeing an uptick in cases and they expect it to get a lot worse.

That's because of the record number of cases in Australia, where the flu season starts earlier and usually sets the stage for what happens in the U.S.

And, it all has to do with the very thing we count on each year to protect us.

While he procrastinated a bit this year, James Campbell said he always gets a flu shot.

"it's very important because it prevents others from getting sick because if you come into contact with germs you can spread them easily," Campbell said.

This year though that shot in the arm may not protect him as much as he hopes.

Just ask Amanda Hatmaker, whose been with IU Health for 15 years and oversees its Urgent Care Centers.

Hatmaker said, "I get my flu shot every year, always have and this is my first year of being sick."

While a typical flu vaccine is usually 40%-to-60% effective, this year's vaccine is estimated to be just 10% effective. Why? Because this year's virus mutated after the vaccine was made.

Making matters worse? The symptoms associated with this virus are often more severe.

"I was down for seven days it was so bad. My fever was up to 104," Hatmaker said.

Nikki Stuckwich, a primary care doctor for IU Health said they're bracing for a bad year.

"we know our colleagues and friends in Louisiana and Alabama are seeing a lot of influenza this year so, we're just waiting for it to hit us because we know it's going to," she said.

Despite concerns about the vaccine, Stuckwich said, if you haven't had a flu shot yet, you still should get it.

"The fact is even if it's only 10% effective, you still decrease the severity of the illness when you've gotten your influenza shot and catch that strain of the virus," she said.

Other than that, she said take typical precautions. Wash your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands, be careful what you touch.

"People will say, 'I don't go out, I haven't been around anyone who's ill,' but if you've been to a big box store or grocery store, you've touched things people who are sick have touched," she said.

And if you develop flu-like symptoms? She said, "get tested right away because you only have a 48-to72-hour window where Tamiflu, the medicine we give for the flu, is effective" in relieving symptoms.

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