Health experts warn flu season could be severe

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A new study found more people than ever could get the flu this year, even if they were vaccinated.

A record-high outbreak of flu cases in Australia is mounting concerns stateside.

Flu season hasn't officially arrived in Northeast Kansas, but local doctors are diagnosing an unhealthy winter.

“They've seen a few cases, not a ton yet, but we are kind of anticipating that we're at the beginning of flu season,” Cotton O’Neil Family Medicine Doctor, Betsy Johns, said.

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates this year’s flu vaccine is only 10% effective in fighting the most commonly reported strain of Influenza A.

“Australia has had a lot more Influenza A than what they anticipated so our vaccine is very similar to their vaccine and we're concerned that we're going to see some of that same pattern here,” Dr. Johns said.

That's because experts say the virus mutated, making the antiviral vaccine less powerful.

"The experts who are studying the flu are studying it around the world and so they're watching in all continents” said Dr. Johns. “So, it may mean the flu vaccine is not as effective as we anticipated."

Still, doctors say some protection is better than nothing. It can decrease severity if you do get the flu.

"We still would encourage people especially the very young, the very old, those who have chronic health problems, that you need to be vaccinated,” Dr. Johns said.

They say it's not too late to get pricked.

"Flu season can last for weeks or months and so I would still encourage people that if you haven't gotten one think about getting one,” Dr. Johns said.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend these five tips for flu prevention:

- Avoid close contact with people who are sick

- Stay home when you are sick

- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing

- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol based hand rub

- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

They recommend everyone six months and older get an injectable flu vaccine as soon as possible.