Flu Season is Just Around the Corner
-Flu affects between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population each year.
-It usually begins in October or November, peaks in January or February and can continue through May.
-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated against the flu every year.
-Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
-The high-dose flu shot is designed for people over 65 years of age. Our immune system response weakens with age, therefore the regular flu vaccine is not very effective in this age group and a vaccine with 4 times the amount of antigens is able to provide better protection which is extremely important in this age group.
-The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year but is never hundred percent right. Last year the vaccine was only 29% effective. Even though it is not 100% effective clinical evidence suggests that the vaccine can reduce the severity of the flu and lower your risks to develop complications including pneumonia and death.
– It takes about two weeks for the vaccination to build the antibodies.
-CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.
– You cannot get the flu from the vaccine since it has the inactivated virus which cannot cause the flu.
– You may experience soreness, redness and some swelling at the vaccination site, sometimes low grade fever, headache or muscle aches, but these symptoms are short-lived.
– It not only protects you but those around you as well. This promotes community protection.
Certain groups of individuals are at high risk for getting the flu and it’s serious complications. These individuals according to the CDC include:
1) pregnant women
2) children between 6 months and 5 years of age
3) people 18 and under who receive aspirin therapy
4) people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, lung condition or diabetes.
5) people whose body mass index is 40 or higher.
6) American Indians or Alaska Natives.
7) anyone living or working in a nursing home or chronic care facility.
8) caregivers of any of the above individuals.
Avoid vaccination if:
1) you are allergic to eggs,
2) have had a bad reaction to a previous influenza vaccination,
3) are younger than 6 months,
4) have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or
5) currently have an illness with fever.
– Taking the flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu.
– Schedule your appointment for the flu vaccine with your healthcare provider or local pharmacy.
Disclaimer: The information is intended to provide general education for patients and their families. The information provided does not constitute medical or health care advice for any individual and is not a substitute for medical and other professional advice and service.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.