According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), peak flu season is off to an early start, recently reporting that 30 states are already seeing flu activity.

“The bottom line is the flu shot is still the most valuable and life-saving public health tool in preventing and spreading the flu. Getting the flu vaccine isn’t just about protecting your health, it’s also about protecting those around you who are vulnerable, like the elderly, children and those with serious health issues.

The more people who get the flu shot, the less chance the virus can spread while protecting more people,” warned Richard Webby, Ph.D., a member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization’s Vaccine Composition Team.

Webby, along with fellow World Health Organization Vaccine Composition Team members, met recently in Geneva to analyze the flu virus surveillance data from the WHO’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) and issue recommendations on the composition of the flu vaccine.

The recommendations are used by the national vaccine regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies to develop, produce and license influenza vaccines.

Webby, one of a select group of scientists responsible for determining which flu vaccines will be put into circulation each year and who attended the WHO meeting in Geneva, is hopeful about the 2018- 2019 flu vaccine composition’s ability to mitigate the virus currently in circulation.

President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order aimed at developing a better flu vaccine to protect Americans against getting the flu. The directive orders the creation of a flu vaccine task force, with input from federal agencies.

“As work moves forward on development of longer lasting vaccines, this year’s flu vaccine has been reformulated and updated based on last year’s flu season,” said Webby.

Simple things like washing your hands regularly, staying home when you’re sick, covering your mouth and nose when you cough, or sneeze will go a long way in protecting yourself and those around you.

Flu is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. In an average year, it kills about 36,000 people. But the toll can go higher, including the 2017–18 flu season included about 48.8 million flu infections in the U.S. and about 79,400 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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