Your flu shot may be useless -- health officials say flu vaccine isn't working as well as expected

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- You may not be in the clear this flu season, even if you've already been vaccinated. For those who got the shot this news is frustrating as it is confusing.

As of Monday, December 8th, the city of Milwaukee Health Department has received reports of 26 hospitalizations of city residents related to flu.

This is the same as last year at this time, but they have seen a significant increase over the past two weeks. On the state level they're reporting a higher than usual number of hospitalizations statewide.

And that's the case nationwide -- why is this? The flu virus has changed.

Have you got a fever, head and body aches, sore throat? You may have the flu! And you won't be alone.

"We're seeing more hospitalizations this year than we did last year," said Vice President for Clinical Health Care at Aurora Health Care, Kathy Leonhardt.

This flu season, the virus is so widespread it has shut down a school in northern Illinois for 2 days because 25% of its population were absent from class earlier this week due to an illness.

Here in southeast Wisconsin, the Menomonee Falls school district isn't taking any chances -- they've sent home a letter that says in part 'influenza is starting to increase in our community' they go on to ask parents to keep their children home from school at the first sign of illness.

Health officials say this year's flu vaccine isn't working as well as expected. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 52% of recent flu samples were not a good match for the current vaccine.

"This is the normal influenza virus it does change, drifts, changes over the course of time and so it presents itself differently than what we had originally, than what the vaccine manufacturers had originally put in this season's vaccine," said Leonhardt.

According to the CDC, the virus has mutated, making the flu vaccine less effective and it's too late to make any adjustments to the vaccine.

"It's still important that the vaccine that we do have available does cover the other viruses and also has an impact, should someone become ill with influenza, the vaccine will help reduce the severity of the illness and or prevent complications that can happen if someone becomes ill," Leonhardt said.

Doctors are also seeing an increase in the whooping cough, so they encourage you to take a look at your vaccine history and if you or your child needs a prosthesis booster to get that in addition to your annual flu shot.

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