80,000 people died of flu last winter in US

Health officials working to make flu shot more effective

Mass immunisation to combat the flu

The 2017 flu vaccine turned out to not be very effective, which is one reason for the sudden increase in flu-related deaths.

Last year, the Miller County Health Unit gave out 400 doses of the vaccine.

Tens of thousands of American deaths last winter are believed to have been caused by the flu and its related complications, officials said Tuesday, making it the most severe season in at least four decades.

"That's huge", said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the best protection against seasonal flu viruses. That strain tended to send people to the hospital and result in fatalities, particularly among those who are vulnerable, such as young children and the elderly.

Additionally, the nation experienced a record-breaking estimated 900,000 hospitalizations last flu season.

"The thing that was most notable about previous year was how high in terms of activity things were", said Nordlund. The season peaked in early February and was mostly over by the end of March.

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It's especially important for people 65 and older (50 and older is recommended by the CDC) to get the flu shot, since their ability to fight the virus is lower.

"The thing that was most notable about past year was how high in terms of activity things were", said Nordlund. That means the vaccine reduced a person's overall risk of having to seek medical care for flu at a doctor's office by 40 percent.

It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977. Estimates for many earlier seasons were not readily available. Most of this year's vaccines cover four strains.

This year's trivalent vaccines will protect against the A/Michigan strain, an H1N1-like virus; A/Singapore, an H3N2-like virus; and B/Colorado (Victoria lineage), while the quadrivalent vaccine will also protect against the B/Phuket strain (Yamagata lineage).

"I think a lot of people had a bad experience a year ago", she said. This means it's best to get the vaccine before flu season begins to have full immune benefits.

Those who do miss out on the early shots, however, should get one when they can.

So far, the flu that's been detected is a milder strain, and early signs are that the vaccine is shaping up to be a good match, Jernigan said. The CDC recommends that vaccination should be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.

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