Flu stats climb as vaccine fails to protect against mutant strain

Published: Dec. 11, 2014 at 3:53 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released the latest flu statistics Wednesday as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipate a severe flu season.

South Carolina's MEDCare Urgent Care has given 2500 flu shots so far this season, with activity peaking this month.

"We've seen kind of an increased spike here in South Carolina," explains Dr. Radwan Hallaba, the co-founder for MEDCare Urgent Care. "Typically, we would see, last year about 3 percent positive flus, and now we're seeing about 6 percent of the patient visits are flu-related."

The various vaccines are designed to protect against three to four strains of Influenza A and Influenza B. Experts say an unpredicted strain of Influenza A has become the dominant one this flu season.

"It's turning out that a higher percentage of this year's flu is by a strain called H3N2, and the vaccine that most people receive this year or the vaccine that's commonly available is not specifically designed for H3N2…every once in awhile you'll get a variant or you'll get a mutation along the way. So, that's not unusual."

In South Carolina, there have been more than 5800 cases, and since the end of September, the flu has killed 7 people in the state.

Hallaba says, while the vaccine may not protect against this strain, he strongly urges that people still get a shot.

"Even though the H3N2 is not something that's explicitly covered with this vaccine, you're still going to get a mitigated response and improved response if you get that vaccine."