Area officials prepare for flu season - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Area officials prepare for flu season

Amarillo, TX - It's the first official week of flu season, and area doctors are watching the virus closely to see how it compares to last season.

The annual flu vaccine is here, but is it effective?  Turns out, it's hard to tell, but so far, this flu season looks as if it could be more mild.

However, predicting the severity of the flu each year is like predicting the super bowl. Manufacturers can make an educated guess, but it's not always 100 percent spot on.

"The CDC works very hard to anticipate what strains of flu will be circulating in our communities to build that flu vaccine, and this year it is a little bit different," Cassie Stoughton, Director of Public Health, said. "The flu vaccine is different than it was last year."

Last year, Amarillo, along with the rest of the country, saw an unusually high number of flu cases. 

This is because the strain of flu vaccine wasn't strong enough for the actual strain of flu going around.

"Right now the prediction would be that locally we will have a little bit earlier of a flu season compared to our historical average, which is actually the first week of February but hopefully we will have a good vaccine match," Dr. Todd Bell, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said.

This year's flu vaccine has four strains of the flu in it, which caters to all communities across the nation.

"So we start tracking flu numbers around this time, so we've got two weeks of data collected and we are about half of what we were last year," Stoughton said. "And so I know that means that everybody is getting their flu shot and washing their hands."

Flu vaccines are currently available at no cost through most insurance plans. The Public Health Department also provides free flu shots for those without insurance.

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