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CDC: Flu Season Continues to Be Mild; Vaccine Is Effective

Health officials report flu vaccine is 59 percent effective so far

man with cold

THURSDAY, Feb. 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- This flu season continues to be mild, while the flu vaccine is working better than the one used last season, with an overall efficacy of 59 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Last week influenza activity did increase a bit more and at a little bit faster rate," Lynnette Brammer, M.P.H., an epidemiologist in the CDC's influenza division, told HealthDay. Doctor visits for flu last week increased from 2.5 percent of all visits to 3.4 percent. "To date, it's still been a mild season, with low levels of hospitalizations and low levels of flu-associated deaths," Brammer added.

Despite the mild season, 13 children have died from flu complications this year, according to Brammer. Depending on the severity of a flu season, the CDC has reported anywhere from 40 to more than 300 pediatric deaths. So the number of child deaths this year is comparatively low, Brammer said.

Unlike last year, the most common flu strain circulating this season is the H1N1 strain. Last year, it was the H3N2 strain. "But H3N2 is still hanging in there, it's not going away," Brammer said. Both of these strains, and a third one, are included in the current flu vaccine, making this year's inoculation a better match than last year's vaccine. Last year, the flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective overall, according to the CDC. Preliminary figures show that the overall effectiveness of this season's flu vaccine so far is 59 percent, CDC officials reported Wednesday.

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