Last year’s 2017-2018 flu season proved to have been the worst in four decades. The dominant viral strain, H3N2, lead to widespread illness across the country and killed about 80,000 people either from the flu itself or its complications.
Experts are predicting this year’s flu season will be milder but the CDC is still encouraging everyone over the age of six months, including pregnant women and patients with chronic diseases to be vaccinated.
The CDC recommends getting the flu shot by the end of October before the bulk of the flu season hits because it takes almost two weeks for the flu shot to take effect. However, if you miss that window period, there is still utility to being vaccinated into the fall or winter months.
The formulation of the flu shot is tweaked yearly in an effort to incorporate the specific strains of influenza that are more likely to circulate during that particular flu season. Unfortunately it is impossible to predict exactly how effective it will be in any given year. Last year’s flu shot was only 36% effective.
The theory behind being vaccinated for the flu is that even small increases in immunity will make a big difference. This happens on an individual level that then propagates to the community level. When fewer people get sick, fewer flu viruses spread and less of the population is at risk for becoming infected. Furthermore, those who do end up getting sick often experience less severe symptoms and are likely to recover quicker.
The CDC recommends the inhaled flu vaccine, the nasal spray FluMist, as well as the traditional intramuscular shots. Efficacy issues prevented nasal spray flu vaccines from being offered on the market in the last two years. However, with those issues now resolved, FluMist is again an excellent option for the needle-averse patients who otherwise would not choose to be vaccinated.
Flu vaccines are made with inactivated or weakened versions of the influenza virus and therefore challenge the body to produce flu-fighting antibodies. The flu shot does not cause infection. That is a misconception. Once vaccinated, a patient may experience mild versions of symptoms associated with the flu as his/her body mounts its immune response. Some flu shot side effects may include pain or redness in the arm at the injection site, body aches and even a low-grade fever. With the nasal spray, patients may experience a runny nose, headache, sore throat or cough.
Please call your doctor’s office today to make an appointment for your flu shot!