National Flu Vaccine Week 2008 runs from Dec. 8 through Dec. 15, so this is the perfect time to get your annual flu shot, if you haven't already taken care of that task. You don't want to get the flu, do you?
The flu is a viral respiratory illness that strikes thousands of people worldwide each year. In the northern hemisphere, peak flu season is fast approaching. The majority of flu cases each year strike in January, February and March, though the season actually begins in November or December and can last into the early spring, depending on where you live.
So far, this year, flu activity nationwide is light. But that can -- and will -- change quickly, once we get past the holiday season. Flu prevention is so easy to achieve with a simple vaccine. Yet, flu vaccine rates in even high risk groups like the elderly and healthcare workers are far below where they should be. Only about 60% of seniors get vaccinated each year, while even fewer health care workers (40% to 42%) get the flu shot.
Vaccination is THE best method for preventing the flu. Flu shot vaccine is made from killed virus, so you can NOT get the flu from a flu shot. There is no way that can happen and tales of that happening are nothing more than myths or misunderstandings. As with most vaccines, there are a few possible mild side effects, but consider this...
The risks of illness and even death from getting the flu are far worse than any mild and short-term discomfort you might have from the shot.
Flu shots are safe even for infants, age 6 months and older and on up into the senior years. High risk groups who should get the flu vaccine every years include:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
a. Health care workers
b. Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
c. Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
There are two types of flu vaccine: flu shots and the newer nasal flu spray (FluMist), which is made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. Although risks of illness are still low with the nasal vaccine, it is only recommended for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. So those of us with asthma can't get it, but we CAN and SHOULD get the flu shot each year.
The only people who should not get a flu vaccine this year are:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
- Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
The vaccine takes about 2 weeks to generate enough antibodies to provide full protection from the flu, but even during that 2 week period, you will have some protection.
I got my shot in early November and I'm looking forward to another flu-free winter this year. How about you?
To find a flu clinic near you, you can visit the American Lung Association website.
To learn more about the flu and flu vaccine, visit the CDC's Flu website.
Also, watch for my interview with a CDC flu expert coming up!
Published On: December 10, 2008