Officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are predicting the worst flu season in years. And the flu shot vaccine is still the best way to fight the virus.
"It's important for adults, and especially anyone with any underlying medical problems such as diabetes, HIV, bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, to get their flu vaccine as it comes available," said Dr. J. Michael Syptak, a member of the Harrisonburg Family Practice Associates.
The CDC says about 36,000 people die each year from the flu. Another 114,000 are hospitalized.
The CDC lists other high-risk groups that should get vaccinated every year, including:
- women more than three months pregnant during flu season
- children aged six months to two years
- everyone over age 50
And there should be plenty of shots to go around this flu season.
"In past years we had shortages of the vaccine, but that doesn't seem to be a problem this year," said Syptak. "So we would highly recommend that people get their flu vaccine as soon as they find out that they're here."
The vaccine is expected to be available later this month. Doctors recommend getting your shot as early as possible, because it takes the vaccine a few weeks to take effect.
But even getting a flu shot does not guarantee that you won't get sick.
"Any year could be a bad flu season, because what happens is the virus itself can shift its viral coding, and whether or not the flu vaccine we have currently available will adequately protect us or not, will determine whether or not we have a bad flu year," explained Syptak.
And it's impossible to tell ahead of time if the flu virus has mutated, making the vaccine less effective.
"If we start seeing a lot of flu come through, especially people who have had the vaccine, and are still getting sick with it, then we can probably anticipate that it might not be a good year," said Syptak.
"Time will just tell."
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When to receive the influenza vaccine
Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm ( The Center for Disease Control Vaccine Information Web site)