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Will this be a miserable flu season?

November 11, 2019

Here’s the thing about flu, it is one of
the most unpredictable pathogens out there. People who study it for their
whole career can’t tell you with any accuracy what’s going to happen. When
experts are trying to figure out what might be coming our way, they look to the
activity that’s happened in the Southern Hemisphere. Our winter is their
summer, their summer is our winter. So some parts of the Southern Hemisphere had a
really bad flu season this year, with a lot of illness, even illness among
people who had been vaccinated. So that leads experts to worry that we might be
facing a bad season, too. But most of that activity in the Southern Hemisphere was
caused by a flu A virus called H3N2. That virus is known to cause very bad flu
seasons. But North America had a big H3N2 flu season last winter. So the question
is: Are we about to follow them, or did they follow us? Flu vaccine takes months to make. So the
way it works is that in February a group of experts from around the world meet at
the World Health Organization in Geneva and look at data about what flu viruses
are circulating in different parts of the world. Based on that, they try to
project what viruses will be coming at us months later. They then instruct
vaccine manufacturers to make the vaccine to protect against the viruses
they think will be the most active, and the vaccine gets made. How well the
vaccine works depends on how well they predicted what will be coming at us this

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