Flu Shots Still Best Option

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

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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Influenza Vaccine

  • Much of the illness and death caused by influenza can be prevented by annual influenza vaccination.
  • Influenza vaccine is specifically recommended for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications as a result of influenza infection.
  • These high-risk groups are:
    • All people age 65 and older.
    • People of any age with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys, diabetes, immunosuppression, or severe forms of anemia.
    • Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities housing patients of any age.
    • Women who will be more then three months pregnant during influenza season.
    • Children and teenagers who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who may therefore be at risk for developing Reye syndrome after an influenza virus infection.

  • Overall vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending upon the degree of similarity between the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine and the strain or strains that circulate during the influenza season.

  • Influenza vaccine produced in the United States cannot cause influenza.

  • The only type of influenza vaccine that has been licensed in the United States is made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause infection.

When to receive the influenza vaccine

  • In the United States, influenza usually occurs from about November until April, with activity peaking between late December and early March.

  • The optimal time for vaccination of persons at high risk for influenza-related medical complications is during October through November.

  • It takes about 1 to 2 weeks after vaccination for antibody against influenza to develop and provide protection.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvac.htm ( The Center for Disease Control Vaccine Information Web site)

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