Bracing for flu season: Steps to protect yourself right now

Get your flu shot as soon as possible, wash your hands often, and watch for signs of this dangerous virus.


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Flu season is under way, and doctors are hopeful this year's influenza outbreak will be far less severe than the last one. The 2017–18 flu season ranked in the high-severity category for every age group, hospitalizing hundreds of thousands of people and killing almost 200 children and tens of thousands of adults — most of them ages 65 or older. "The number of cases and severity of the illness in last year's epidemic was a surprise," says Dr. Mark Poznansky, director of the Vaccine Immunotherapy Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Why was the last flu season so vicious? "The flu vaccine wasn't a great match for the actual virus that wound up infecting people," Dr. Poznansky explains. The vaccine was only about 40% effective, meaning that people who received the vaccine were 40% less likely to get sick. The FDA is trying to figure out why.

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