The flu vaccine is the main way to ward off the flu. This is an ideal time to get vaccinated, however getting vaccinated as late as December may still help ward off the flu bug.
Influenza is one of the top ten global threats to health.
The vaccine to prevent the flu is never 100% effective, since we are relying on the previous year’s infecting virus. Effectiveness of the vaccine has ranged from 19 to 60 percent for the past ten years.
In the last three years, the flu vaccine’s effectiveness has decreased from 48% in 2015-2016 to 29% in 2018-2019. It is a catch-up game, trying to outguess the flu virus.
There is no way to determine from year to year which strain of flu virus will infect us and cause harm, even death. During the 2017 – 2018 flu season, over 900,000 people were hospitalized and 80,000 people died from the flu and/or its complications.
This year’s trivalent flu vaccine consists of three selected viruses approved by a consensus group from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
They determined earlier this year that the vaccine for the 2019-2020 flu season should contain the Brisbane, Kansas, and Colorado viruses. The quadrivalent virus contains the above three strains plus a virus from Thailand (Phuket).
You may ask why would administration of the flu virus prevent the flu? Most vaccines consist of inactivate forms of a virus, or a live-attenuated form of the virus. You cannot get the flu from these modified forms of the virus. Once an inactive or attenuated form of the virus enters the blood stream, a relatively healthy body will produce enough antibodies to defend against any future invasion from an infecting flu virus.
This year’s vaccine would only be effective in preventing a flu where the infecting virus is similar to the 3 or 4 viral components of the vaccine.
Highlights of recommendations for the 2019-2020 Flu Vaccination Program:
- all persons 6 months of age should be vaccinated, unless there is acontraindication
- no preference as to one flu vaccine over another
- expanded age indication for Afluria Quadrivalent vaccine to include persons 6 months of age
- dose volumes have changed for different age groups, specifically for 6 to 35 months and for 36 months to adulthood.
Some of us are at high risk for contracting the flu, especially those of us 65 years of age or older, pregnant women, or a young (2 yo) child. Those of us with asthma, heart disease, status-post stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDs, or cancer are also at a higher risk.
People who are at a high risk of contracting the flu may need to be prescribed antiviral medications. Xofluza, which was recently approved, and Oseltamivir (generic Tamiflu) are two antiviral meds that prevent the flu virus from multiplying. Relenza is a powdered form of an antiviral drug that is inhaled. Rapivab is administered intravenously and works much like the other antiviral medications.
Influenza is a respiratory infection usually contagious beginning with the virus caught in the mucous membranes of the nose. Symptoms include many of the following:
|Fever and Chills||Localized or Generalized Body Aches|
|Runny or Stuffy Nose||Vomiting/Diarrhea (usually in children)|
The duration of the flu is one to two weeks. One complication is the development of secondary infections, including pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus or ear infections. Dehydration and sepsis may also occur.
Treatment usually consists of rest, hydrating with fluids (only water and broth), possibly non-prescription medications to treat symptoms, and oral flu medication. If you develop difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath; pain or pressure of the chest or stomach area; sudden dizziness; mental confusion; severe or persistent vomiting, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
If you find that your flu-like symptoms improve, but a fever returns or your cough worsens, it is also considered an immediate medical concern.
In addition to getting vaccinated to prevent the flu, practice good hand hygiene, and the proper technique in covering your mouth in the arch of your arm when sneezing or coughing. It is also recommended to clean commonly touched surfaces as well as to avoid contact with infected individuals.
Check with your healthcare providers, including your pharmacist, to determine which steps you should take in preventing the flu or for treating the symptoms if you have contracted the flu.
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