Flu season doesn't officially get under way until next month but like Halloween merchandise, for the past month you've probably seen a lot of ads for flu shots in pharmacies, grocery stores and other businesses offering the vaccine. There's a good reason for this
Flu season doesn't officially get under way until next month but like Halloween merchandise, for the past month you've probably seen a lot of ads for flu shots in pharmacies, grocery stores and other businesses offering the vaccine. There's a good reason for this.
Since 2009, when the H1N1 virus caught many of us by surprise, manufacturers have been releasing products in August. In short, it's now flu shot season. Based on the early reports, there should be an ample supply this year, so anyone who wants a flu vaccine should be able to get it.
Getting the vaccine is your best defense against influenza — or, more simply, the flu. It is a contagious respiratory disease infecting the nose, throat and lungs, and can lead to serious complications and even death. About 30,000 people each year die from flu. Patients with respiratory problems like asthma, weakened immune systems and even health issues like diabetes can see those conditions worsened by the flu.
Approximately five to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year. Anyone can become infected, even healthy individuals, and pass it along to friends and loved ones. So getting vaccinated is not only important for you, it’s also important for those around you.
Last year was one of the mildest flu seasons on record, according to the Centers For Disease Control but because the flu is a very unstable virus that changes each year, it is unpredictable and the public is warned not to become complacent. The flu season typically begins in October and lasts as late as May, with the season peaking in February. Seasonal peaks vary by region.
How do flu vaccines work?
Seasonal flu vaccines combine inactive strains of three flu viruses. When injected, the formula encourages your immune system to build antibodies to fight infection. The three most common flu viruses now circulating are: influenza B, the H1N1 A strain and the H3N2 A strain.
Do you need a vaccination each year?
Yes. Public health officials annually look at which flu viruses will likely be most prevalent, then design a vaccine to defeat those particular strains. Going without in any year could leave you unprotected.
Should everyone get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends everyone who is at least six months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for some, including people who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. Those include:
· People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease
· Pregnant women
· People who are morbidly obese
· People 65 years and older
· People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications such as those in nursing homes.
Page 2 of 2 - Some individuals having reactions to certain substances should contact their doctor before getting vaccinated. This includes:
· People with severe allergies to chicken eggs
· People who have previously suffered severe reactions to influenza vaccinations
· People with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (a disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system.)
· People with severe fevers -- (If you're experiencing a mild, common cold and a low-grade fever, you do not have to wait to be vaccinated.)
Timing is important in order to have the maximum protection during the peak of flu season. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza. I recommend patients get their vaccinations as soon as vaccines are available.
Also, don't forget the basics like proper and frequent hand washing, a balanced diet and plenty of rest during the fall and winter months.
Jami Woods RN, BSN, CIC, is an infection control specialist at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Spring.