The year's most common flu strain is particularly nasty

This year's vaccine has proved to be rather ineffective against the nasty H3N2 strain.
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This year's vaccine has proved to be rather ineffective against the nasty H3N2 strain.
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Know someone who's been hit hard by the flu in recent weeks? 

You're not alone if you do. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there have been more than 3,400 flu-related hospitalizations and one infant fatality in Minnesota since the beginning of last October (as of Jan. 27). 

There's a nasty flu going around

The reason the flu seems so bad this year is because the H3N2 strain is among the four types of flu people have been infected with, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

"H3N2 is historically the bad actor among influenzas," Fauci said in a recent interview with National Geographic. "It's also associated with complications."

Fauci added that H3N2 is a less common strain, so people haven't built up the kind of immunity they otherwise might have with a more common strain. 

Typical flu symptoms include body aches, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, exhaustion, congestion, vomiting and diarrhea. 

Flu vaccine hasn't been very effective

The vaccination shot you may or may not have received isn't very effective against the H3N2 strain. 

According to Quartz, data from a report published by Canadian scientists says "the vaccine is only 17% effective against H3N2, the strain that's causing 80% of flu infections." 

For people aged 20-64, the vaccine is only 10 percent effective against H3N2, the study claims. 

Elderly hit the hardest in Minnesota

In Minnesota than 2,700 of the 3,400+ hospitalizations were to care for people aged 65 or older. They're the most vulnerable to the flu this season, with ages 50-64 and 0-4 coming in second and third, respectively, per the MN Department of Health. 

How common the flu is during a given season is rated by one of five levels, with a "widespread" tag being the worst. 

  1. No activity
  2. Sporadic
  3. Local
  4. Regional
  5. Widespread

Minnesota, along with all but two states (Oregon, Hawaii) in the US, is battling "widespread" flu. Minnesota has been at that level since just before Christmas, putting this year's influenza season on pace to surpass the six-year high of 4,138 flu hospitalizations three years ago.

Number of flu hospitalizations in Minnesota the previous five years:

  • 2012-2013: 3,068 
  • 2013-2014: 1,540
  • 2014-2015: 4,138
  • 2015-2016: 1,541
  • 2016-2017: 3,738
  • 2017-2018: 3,467 (as of Jan. 27)

According to Vox, "flu viruses will continue circulating for a few more months."

You can get it twice

KARE 11 spoke with a doctor from the Hennepin County Medical Center who warned that there are multiple strains of the virus, meaning you could get the flu twice. 

Your best chance at avoiding the flu is to wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.


State officials expect 2 new flu strains in coming flu season

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Health are expecting more cases of flu than seen in the last two years because of two new strains that are expected to hit the state. Vaccinations are already available to fight the new strains, but it won't protect people from a third flu threat: a variation of swine flu that is transmitted through direct contact with infected pigs.

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