BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Flu shot effectiveness. Health experts say the flu vaccine has been one of the least effective in a decade.

Tracey Leong explains why the shot only offers limited protection.

The flu has become increasingly difficult to fight. The limited effectiveness of the vaccine may explain why we’re seeing the flu hit epidemic levels.

Forty-six states, including Maryland, are dealing with widespread flu levels. Hospitals across the country are having a difficult time caring for all the patients.

“It’s been a little worse than anticipated. We’ve seen a big increase in those type of calls,” one health expert said.

Typically, the flu vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective. But this year, it’s less than half–only 23 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a phenomenon experts are calling “vaccine drift.”

“The vaccine was made prior to this current strain of viruses, and so it’s not as effective as before,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Leana Wen.

Which may be the reason why the flu hit epidemic levels. So far this season, 26 children have died.

“It’s possible this time that a couple of the strains did change in their code. It’s also possible there are different strains than previously thought,” said Dr. Wen.

While the flu vaccine is less effective this year, experts say the cases in Baltimore are relatively the same as what they saw last year.

“We are still recommending that everyone who, in particular who are at high risk for complications of flu, we’re recommending that everyone gets the flu vaccine,” Dr. Wen said.

It’s advice people across Maryland are following.

“My kids are in school and it’s better to protect yourself,” one woman said.

“That’s why I got my flu shot,” one man said.

“I followed the advice of my doctor,” said another.

Experts say the best form of protection is washing your hands. If you do get the flu, taking Tamiflu is only helpful if you take it within the first two days that you start showing symptoms.

Infants and anyone over 65 are most at risk of contracting the flu.

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