The military medical community in Europe is studying the efficacy of its flu vaccinations to determine if shots work better than the intranasal vaccine.

The military began using the nasal vaccine FluMist in the 2007-2008 flu season for some adults, instead of flu shots. But a recent report suggests the shot is more effective in fighting off the flu.

A three-year study recently released by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Md., found that military personnel who received flu shots in the 2004-05 flu season had 54.8 percent fewer health care visits for flulike symptoms and pneumonia than those who received no vaccine; 30.7 percent fewer visits the following year; and 28.4 percent fewer visits in 2006-07, according to a report in The New York Times.

By contrast, those who took the inhaled vaccine had 20.8 percent fewer visits than the unvaccinated population in 2004-05; 12 percent fewer visits the next year; and 10.7 percent fewer visits in 2006-07, the paper reported.

Medical officials in Europe hope their date will be accurate enough to determine which version of the vaccine is more effective in protecting troops and their families, said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Cooper, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe.

So far this season, 452 cases of influenza A have been confirmed, a figure that is 80 percent higher than all of last year’s flu season, which runs from November to April, Cooper said.

“And we still have eight weeks to go,” he said.

Until the study is complete sometime later this year, officials won’t know for certain why more people contracted the virus this year than last.

“This … has been one of the coldest winters we’ve experienced in a long time, and that forces people indoors and helps with the exchange of the virus,” Cooper said.

“Possibly, the vaccine wasn’t quite the right one. … There’s no way of telling until we do the analysis.”

But, he said, the number of flu cases has dropped substantially in the past few weeks. The reason could be that physicians sent in fewer samples for confirmation or that the flu season this year peaked earlier than anticipated, he said.

The World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other organizations predict annually which vaccine should be used to combat the varying types of regional influenza strains.

The flu season in Europe typically peaks in February or March.

Last year it peaked the second week of March.

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