Early indicators show flu season could be bad, experts warn

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Early indicators show flu season could be bad, Christine Dobbyn reports. (KTRK)

This could be a bad flu season, according to a prominent medical researcher. The harsh flu season in the southern hemisphere could mean the same in our northern hemisphere.

"We actually started seeing cases earlier this year than we usually do and we've seen more by this year than we usually do. And we expect that in the next coming month, we'll see the cases ramp up," said Dr. Emily Landon, an infectious disease specialist and hospital epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine.

Dr. Landon said the flu changes every year, and ultimately, a universal vaccine would be best.

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"If we could give them a vaccine that would prevent influenza and just give it one or two times in their life, it would make a huge difference," she said.

In Galveston County, 286 cases of flu have been reported to the Galveston County Health District. During the same period last year, officials said only 32 cases were reported.

Cases By Flu Season (October - May) reported in Galveston Co.:

2013-2014 = 1277
2014-2015 = 1402
2015-2016 = 2075
2016-2017 = 1949

The director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases writes in the New England Journal of Medicine that this season's vaccine may not be all that effective against the predominantly circulating strain of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health wrote: "Influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated in Australia, and the preliminary estimate of vaccine effectiveness against influenza A (H3N2) was only 10 percent."

Dr. Fauci said that the situation underscores the need for a more effective flu vaccine, ideally, one that is universal.

"There are some universal vaccines that are being tested this year and so I hope that we're going to see it soon. I think that we'll probably see it in my lifetime," Dr. Landon said.

While the effectiveness of the vaccine being used this year in the northern hemisphere is still unclear, experts recommend vaccinations so that you can limit severity if you get the flu.

An estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. die from the flu each year.

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