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Published on Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Everything you need to know about the flu and flu shot

Carrie GertsemaThe following was written by Carrie Gertsema, St. Louis County Public Health Nurse Supervisor.

 

The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.


Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During recent flu seasons, between 80% and 90% of flu related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. "Flu season" in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.
EVERYONE 6 MONTHS AND OLDER SHOULD GET A FLU SHOT ANNUALLY.

 

Flu shot

 

How do flu vaccines work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. There are flu vaccines made to protect against three flu viruses (trivalent) and four flu viruses (quadrivalent). St. Louis County will be providing employees with the quadrivalent vaccine this year.


What kinds of flu vaccines are available?
CDC recommends use of injectable influenza during 2016-2017. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.


When should I get vaccinated?
Flu vaccination should begin by October if possible. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even in January or later. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.


Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor's offices, clinics, and many pharmacies.

 

Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body's immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.


Does flu vaccine work right away?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. That's why it's better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.


Can I get seasonal flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year?
Yes. There is still a possibility you could get the flu even if you got vaccinated. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the person being vaccinated, and also the similarity or "match" between the viruses used to make the vaccine and those circulating in the community. If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it's important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different but related influenza viruses.


What are the benefits of flu vaccination?

Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.

 

Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.

 

A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.

 

Another study published in the summer of 2016 showed that people 50 years and older who got a flu vaccine reduced their risk of getting hospitalized from flu by 57%.

 

Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.

 

Vaccination was associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.

 

Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79%) and chronic lung disease (52%).

 

Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated also protects the developing baby during pregnancy and for several months after the baby is born.


A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness in pregnant women found that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about one half.

 

Another study found that babies of women who got a flu vaccine during their pregnancy were about one-third less likely to get sick with flu than babies of unvaccinated women. This protective benefit was observed for up to four months after birth.

 

Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.

 

Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.


Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. While a flu vaccine cannot give you flu illness, there are different side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot vaccine. These side effects are mild and short-lasting, especially when compared to symptoms of bad case of flu.
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that may occur are:

  • Soreness,
  • Redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever (low grade)
  • Aches


If these problems occur, they begin soon after vaccination and are mild and short-lived. Almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it. However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.


Regarding Egg Allergy
The recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed for 2016-2017. People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.


Most of the information for this article comes from the Centers for Disesase Control.

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Author: Dana Kazel

Categories: St. Louis County Spotlight

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