CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Even though medical experts say this year’s flu shot is only 10 percent effective, doctors are still encouraging people to get their vaccine.

“Even though it’s not specific, it does stimulate your immune system and if you do get the flu, it will probably be less severe than if you didn’t get the shot,” said Dr. Al Johnson, of Dallas, Texas, on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Health officials say there are a number of signed that point to a potentially rough flu season.

According to a report this month from The New England Journal of Medicine, the flu vaccine used this year in the Southern Hemisphere was only 10 percent effective. The vaccine there has the same composition as the vaccine used in the United States.

So far, more than 7,000 cases of influenza have been confirmed in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than double the number this time last year.

“That does raise concerns in the high flu areas that they might not be protected as well as they should be and need to take additional precautions,” Johnson said.

Johnson said a typical flu shot is 40-45 percent effective.

Researchers said the preliminary data of an only 10 percent effectiveness may indicate what’s to come for the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. Flu season in West Virginia typically peaks in February-March.

State health officials previously said there’s no reason to be alarmed because the effectiveness of the vaccine can change by the time flu season peaks in the U.S.

“We don’t know what the effectiveness of the current vaccine to the strain will be, understanding that shifts can still happen within the virus,” state health officer Dr. Rahul Gupta said earlier this month.

Flu symptoms include a high fever, body aches, coughing and congestion — which is more severe than a typical cold.

Johnson said it’s important to protect yourself and your children from catching the flu.

“If there is flu going on in your school, have your kids wash their hands when they get home and even taking their clothes off, washing them and make sure they aren’t reused,” he said.

The CDC says the flu is currently widespread in four states including Georgia, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Massachusetts.

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