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Vaccine-resistant virus gets the blame for flu epidemic sweeping Texas

Vaccine-resistant virus gets the blame for flu epidemic sweeping Texas

CDC flu epidemic map 2014
The CDC declared Monday that 22 states, including Texas, are experiencing an extreme number of flu cases this year. Photo via CDC.gov

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared Monday that a national flu epidemic is sweeping across the country, especially in the Southeast and Midwest regions, including Texas. It's the result of a virulent mutated strain of H3N2.

A high number of flu cases have been reported in 22 states, and CDC figures indicate that from October 1 to December 20, 15 children have died from the virus.

The CDC reported that 48 percent of the H3N2 samples from patients seen so far were well-matched to the cocktail of ingredients in the current vaccine, but 52 percent were not.

People at the highest risk of contracting the virus are those over the age of 65 and younger than 4. At this time, the CDC reports that 2,500 people have been hospitalized because of the growing, and worsening, flu crisis.

One of the primary reasons for the explosion in the number of flu cases is that this year's H3N2 virus has mutated, reducing the effectiveness of the pre-prepared vaccines.

Approximately 90 percent of cases reported this year have been the virulent H3N2 subtype; earlier this month, the CDC admitted that the current vaccine does not protect well against the H3N2 strain. In spite of this news, CDC officials say the vaccine should provide some protection and still are urging people to get vaccinated.

The CDC reported that 48 percent of the H3N2 samples from patients seen so far were well-matched to the cocktail of ingredients in the current vaccine, but 52 percent were not.

"Though we cannot predict what will happen the rest of this flu season, it's possible we may have a season that's more severe than most," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a news conference early this month.

An official with one vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, emphasized that about half the samples match the strain in the vaccine, and noted that flu seasons can sometimes involve a second wave of illnesses caused by a different strain.

"We're at the very beginning of flu season, and it's quite possible different strains will predominate," Dr. Leonard Friedland, director of scientific affairs for GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines business, told the Daily Mail.

For more information, visit the CDC's site on influenza.