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Military in Europe experiencing relatively mild flu season, but it’s not over yet

U.S. servicemembers in Europe have been less likely than their counterparts elsewhere to get the flu, but it’s still important to get vaccinated, Army health officials said.

“We’re still two months away from being out of the woods,” said Col. Rodney Coldren, chief of epidemiology for the Army’s Public Health Command in Europe.

Even when the vaccine does not prevent infection, “it is still effective in reducing the severity of the infection,” he said.

The flu hit the United States and Asia hard this year, with widespread reports of deaths and hospitalizations, but the effects in Europe have been mild, especially among U.S. forces, Coldren said.

This was partly due to successful vaccination programs in both the military and civilian populations in Europe, he said.

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It’s also because the flu strain affecting Europe, influenza Type B, is less virulent than Type H3N2. Type H3N2 is currently the most common strain in Asia and in the United States. More than 86 percent of people suffering from this year’s flu epidemic in the U.S. were infected with H3N2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This year’s flu vaccine was just 25 percent effective against H3N2, according to the CDC. By comparison it is 42 percent effective against influenza Type B viruses in Europe.

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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