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.

Published: November, 2018

Image: © SolStock/Getty Images

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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