This Year’s Flu Vaccine – Why is it Different, and Why Does it Matter?

It’s getting close to to that time of year again, and you’re probably wondering how not to get sick with the flu, aren’t you? While Luminex can help your physician diagnose you once you get sick, wouldn’t you rather avoid the flu altogether?

How do you avoid getting the flu?

For most people, the easiest way is to get vaccinated. There are some people who cannot get vaccinated due to other medical reasons, but that is a very small portion of the population. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has three simple tips to avoid the flu, including getting vaccinated, taking everyday precautions such as hand washing, and following your physician’s directions.

Who decides which flu strains to include in the vaccine?

Experts from the Federal Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and other public health agencies study influenza samples and global disease patterns to make their best estimate of which strains will be prevalent in the upcoming season.

In February 2012, the World Health Organization released the 2012-2013 influenza strains to be included in the upcoming cycle’s vaccine, to allow manufacturers time to produce the inoculation drug. In mid-August, the FDA announced that this year’s vaccine would include the following strains:

  • A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, it was included in last year’s vaccine
  • A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, and is new in the 2012-13 vaccine
  • B/Wisconsin/1/2012-like virus, also new to the 2012-13 vaccine

What makes each strain of the flu different?

The influenza viruses are divided into three main subtypes, A, B, and C. Only the subtype A viruses are further classified by subtype on the basis of surface glycoproteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). A and B types are further classified by strains. Humans can be infected with virus types A, B, and C. The 2012-13 vaccine is a trivalent vaccine for two A types and one B type of influenza.

Viruses are constantly changing and presenting new challenges for the public health officials that try to keep the general population healthy. Take advantage of the work they do and get vaccinated if possible!