How Australia’s rough flu season could mean trouble for United States

Investigators

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) – The official start of flu season is still a few weeks away, but some are saying now is the time to start thinking about flu shots. Many indications point to this flu season being a tough one.

The best gauge of how flu season will be is based on what’s happening in the Southern Hemisphere, which has already had its flu season.

“Certainly, the numbers seem to be quite high this year, especially for this part of the year,” said Dr. Harry Nespolon of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

More than 60 Australians died this season as a result of flu.

In Holly Springs, vaccine production at Seqirus is ramping up. The company is one of the largest makers of flu vaccine in the world.

The vaccines companies like Seqirus are manufacturing are designed to handle multiple strains of the flu.

“All flu vaccines are quadrivalent, which means they have two ‘A’ strains and two ‘B’ strains,” said Susan Catchings, who is a family nurse practitioner at Avance Care in Cary.

She said it’s never a sure thing when it comes to the effectiveness of the vaccine because no one knows how it might mutate by the time it gets to the United States.

“The closest we can get to a match is a guessing game every year,” she said.

At her Cary practice, Catchings is already tracking local flu cases.

“We’ve seen it in local day cares (and) universities like N.C. State and UNC. They’ve had some flu,” she said. “I know (a) Durham pediatric practice that has had flu this year.”

Although, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it can’t tell how the flu will play out in this country. Catchings said what happened in Australia is raising red flags.

“It’s quite worrisome. Australia and other countries in the far east have had such a severe flu season,” said Catchings.

Because the flu season is starting early in the United States, Catchings said it’s not too early to begin getting flu shots. She also reminded that flu shots do not provide instantaneous protection.

It takes two weeks or so for the body to build up enough antibodies to protect against the flu, so there is lag time between getting the shot and stopping the flu.

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