Biggest puzzle of his career: For doctor, the ultimate goal is one flu shot; "permanent immunity"

MILWAUKEE -- For most of us, the flu is something we dread and hope to avoid. Dr. Patrick Wilson chooses to surround himself with it. The flu is the biggest puzzle of his career.

“It’s really adaptable. It’s a virus that can change very quickly and adapt to our body's protective mechanisms," Wilson said.

Dr. Patrick Wilson

Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Chicago, was in town for a series of presentations at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin — a symposium that connects regional immunologists to leading experts in the field.

Across the country, thousands of people die from the flu every year. It is particularly dangerous for the elderly, young children and pregnant women. But did you ever wonder why you need to get a flu shot every year?

“The vaccine is actually good for the strains that are in the vaccine -- but then the strains mutate and change, and so they have to make a new vaccine every year or two that has these changed influenza strains," Wilson said.

Wilson is working toward what he terms a ‘Universal Influenza Vaccine,’ which would eliminate the need for a new shot each and every year.

“The biggest emphasis is finding common characteristics of all influenza that can be targeted by a vaccine, so that you could get a one shot and have permanent influenza immunity," Wilson said.

In the meantime though, Wilson stresses how important it is to get a flu shot -- both for your health, and for his research.

“Not everybody gets the vaccine, so that means there is always a reservoir for it to grow and mutate and change," Wilson said.

And become harder for scientists like Dr. Wilson to eradicate.

To find a flu shot location near you in Milwaukee, CLICK HERE to access the City of Milwaukee's flu vaccine finder.