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Scientists closing in on a better flu vaccine

Instead of relying on people to get vaccinated every year, scientists are getting closer to a universal flu vaccine that would last through multiple seasons.

Posted: Jan 14, 2019 9:32 AM
Updated: Jan 14, 2019 9:49 AM

Between 6.2 million and 7.3 million people in the United States have developed the flu this season, according to data released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time the agency has provided an in-season estimate of national flu cases.

The CDC also estimates that between 2.9 million and 3.5 million people have seen a doctor because of the flu since the season began in October. Between 69,300 and 83,500 people have been hospitalized because of the virus.

Thirty states have reported widespread flu activity, although flu is present in every state. Fifteen states reported high levels of flu activity as of the week ending January 5. That's four fewer states than the previous week.

The number of children who died of flu increased. Three children's deaths related to the flu were reported in the week ending January 5, bringing the pediatric death toll to 16 for this season, according to the CDC.

Provisional data on how well this season's flu vaccine is working to prevent people from getting sick won't be available for at least several more weeks, according to the CDC.

Last season's flu shot was only 40% effective, and only 37% of adults got vaccinated. The result, experts say: An estimated 80,000 Americans died during last year's remarkably severe flu season, which was the deadliest in more than four decades.

Efforts are underway to create a better vaccine.

Instead of relying on people to get vaccinated every year, scientists are getting closer to a flu vaccine that would last through multiple seasons, called a universal flu vaccine.

"It will be a game-changer," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National Institutes of Health. "It also would very likely be a much more effective vaccine than the ones we have to make each year, hoping that we guess accurately as to what the influenza virus that season will be."

The National Institutes of Health is investigating several methods to achieve a universal vaccine.

One candidate from the Israel-based biopharmaceutical company BiondVax is in large-scale trials in Europe and smaller trials in the United States.

At a congressional hearing on flu preparedness in March, Fauci emphasized the need for a universal flu vaccine and the difficulty in creating one.

For a universal flu vaccine to work, it has to target certain parts of the virus that don't change much from season to season, and that's no easy task.

There's even a possibility it might not work.

"We'll know probably by the end of 2020, the beginning of 2021, whether or not we do have a successful universal flu vaccine," Fauci said.

Until then, Americans will continue to have to keep getting vaccinated every year, which is still better than getting no flu shot at all.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485230

Reported Deaths: 6554
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1006801585
Ramsey43047801
Dakota36254390
Anoka33274384
Washington22065255
Stearns18723201
St. Louis14794262
Scott13273107
Wright12517115
Olmsted1177988
Sherburne871572
Carver771040
Clay690387
Rice670091
Blue Earth593835
Kandiyohi579474
Crow Wing519681
Chisago498445
Otter Tail481870
Benton446190
Winona418049
Mower404131
Douglas392568
Nobles386847
Goodhue385568
Polk342762
McLeod339349
Beltrami337351
Morrison324247
Lyon313044
Itasca312746
Becker310941
Isanti305754
Carlton300149
Steele299711
Pine282016
Freeborn280523
Nicollet258141
Todd247830
Brown244637
Le Sueur235020
Mille Lacs227247
Cass219924
Waseca208917
Meeker207434
Martin189328
Wabasha18623
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15214
Renville149540
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134116
Wadena130920
Faribault122917
Aitkin118933
Sibley117310
Watonwan11728
Rock115714
Kanabec107419
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9438
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8025
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake73718
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68316
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Unassigned47968
Norman4768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362189

Reported Deaths: 5414
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58146549
Linn20653312
Scott18288207
Black Hawk16249291
Woodbury14961211
Johnson1383473
Dubuque13537194
Dallas1135890
Pottawattamie10765143
Story1021645
Warren555274
Clinton543284
Cerro Gordo533681
Webster518787
Marshall496272
Sioux494369
Buena Vista473236
Des Moines457661
Muscatine451191
Wapello4330108
Jasper416966
Plymouth394577
Lee375352
Marion359069
Jones294154
Henry292737
Carroll285548
Bremer280154
Crawford274735
Boone259630
Washington254147
Benton252854
Mahaska224346
Jackson221438
Dickinson217439
Tama213465
Kossuth208154
Clay193525
Hamilton192042
Delaware188839
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan185129
Fayette185035
Page183219
Hardin181039
Wright179731
Harrison179669
Cedar177923
Clayton168053
Butler166331
Mills163120
Floyd162740
Madison154518
Cherokee153935
Poweshiek153730
Hancock146829
Lyon145841
Allamakee145646
Iowa144423
Appanoose139147
Grundy139030
Jefferson138232
Winnebago138230
Cass134151
Calhoun133711
Mitchell130840
Louisa128241
Union126331
Chickasaw125213
Sac124218
Emmet121240
Shelby121033
Franklin118419
Humboldt117425
Guthrie116528
Palo Alto104921
Montgomery103936
Howard103121
Clarke100520
Unassigned9890
Keokuk98129
Monroe93128
Adair91928
Ida91032
Pocahontas85519
Davis82623
Monona81627
Greene77310
Lucas73821
Osceola70514
Worth6987
Taylor66412
Fremont5919
Decatur5789
Van Buren55918
Ringgold52020
Wayne48821
Audubon4869
Adams3264
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