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A universal flu shot may be nearing reality

New strategies aim to attack the influenza virus in creative ways

By
8:52am, October 17, 2017
illustration of syringe with flu viruses

ONE AND DONE  The flu kills tens of thousands of people in the United States each year, and protection is made harder by the need for an annual shot. A onetime vaccine is getting closer to reality. 

One of the planet’s deadliest viruses makes an annual pass through the United States with little fanfare. It rarely generates flashy headlines or news footage of health workers in hazmat suits. There’s no sudden panic when a sick person shows up coughing and feverish in an emergency room. Yet before next spring, this season’s lethal germ will probably have infected millions of Americans, killing tens of thousands. Still, it’s often referred to as just the flu.

The influenza virus seems so normal to most Americans that only about half of us will heed those “time for your flu shot” banners that pop up at pharmacies and worksites every autumn. Those annual shots remain the best means of protection, but they must be manufactured months before flu season starts, based on a best educated guess of what strains of the virus will be circulating. That means even in a successful year, vaccine performance may not be impressive. During the 2015

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