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Universal Flu Vaccine Predicted 'Within 5 Years'

By    |   Friday, 16 January 2015 12:47 PM

Federal health officials disclosed this week that flu vaccines are only 23 percent effective this season — because the shot’s formulation is a bad match for the primary influenza strain circulating in most parts of the country.

But a newly discovered class of antibodies may make such mismatches a thing of the past by providing the basis for a new "universal flu vaccine" — given once every 5 or 10 years — that would offer protection against influenza year-to-year, Medical News Today
In fact, researchers at McMaster University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York,  suggest this new universal vaccine could be available “within 5 years” and would prevent the problems experienced in the current flu season of the annual flu shot not matching accurately against the predominant influenza strain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the most common strains of flu viruses that have been circulating this year are variants of A H3N2 viruses that are genetically different from the strains used to make this season's vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine is formulated annually to protect against three or four different flu viruses, but must be taken every year because virus mutate. Flu scientists make predictions way in advance of the flu season for which strains vaccine manufacturers should target in formulating annual flu shots.
But a universal flu vaccine would be effective and last for many years by stimulating immunity against proteins inside a flu virus, which don't change from year to year. Currently, flu vaccines aim to produce immunity against proteins on the surface of the flu virus, which change all the time.
This year, the CDC still recommends that people get flu shots. Fewer than half of Americans have been vaccinated this year, slightly less than usual, CDC. Flu vaccines protect against three to four different strains of flu viruses. So a flu vaccine may protect people against different strains of virus, such as influenza B that often shows up late in the season.
Flu viruses will likely continue to circulate for six weeks or so, the CDC said.
But health experts also recommend the following steps to reduce your risk of catching the flu:
Take care, if traveling. Pack sanitizer wipes for tray tables, bathrooms. Keep hands away from face and eyes. Sit at front of the plane, where ventilation is best and open the air vent "gaspers" overhead as much as possible.
Boost immune system. Make sure to stay active, exercise, eat well, get rest, keep your stress down to keep your immune system functioning well. Some supplements/herbal remedies —Echinacea, zinc, and ginseng — can boost the immune system.
Limit close contact. Think twice about hugging and kissing family members and close friends, if you’re feeling under the weather.
Wash your hands frequently. Fastidious hand-washing or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers can knock down the spread of cold and flu germs.

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Friday, 16 January 2015 12:47 PM
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