By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The flu season is ramping up and many are predicting it’s going to be a rough one, partially because the flu vaccine is less effective this year.  And new research says it could be especially bad for men. It says men actually get sicker than women and suffer more.

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Influenza is already widespread in many parts of our area.  The new research shows the flu vaccine is more effective in women than in men, and for women who do get the flu, the study found they are better at fighting the virus. In other words, men get sicker than women.   Dr. Jake Deutsch, an emergency department physician says, “Are men less equipped to deal with infection? Technically, yes.”

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The reason, according to the study that was conducted on mice, is estrogen, the female sex hormone.  Dr. Deutsch says, “The female mice that produced estrogen produced an enzyme and that enzyme was able to help them fight infection.” He says it may be about simple evolution, “There’s an idea there that estrogen, which is native to women’s endocrine system, is there because part of their role is to be nurturers they have to take care of not only themselves but their families.”

Some women say, finally, there’s evidence backing up what many say they already know. Men are bigger babies when it comes to getting sick.  One says, “They seem to whine more and they seem to want to ride it out longer.” But another says, “I think women are worse.”

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Doctors say the study could lead to new immune boosting drugs for men, based on estrogen that’s safe for them.  For now, the best way to keep from getting sick, is to get plenty of rest, wash your hands and get a flu shot.

Stephanie Stahl