What a difference one year makes. Last year this time H1N1 was just beginning to fall to the back pages of newspapers and websites but still one of the most talked about subjects. This winter, the flu as well as the flu vaccine has rarely been a headline issue. Is it because we eliminated all the flu viruses? The answer is no.
Actually, January has typically been a peak month for flu epidemics and a small number of states are currently experiencing widespread flu activity (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia). New York City also reports widespread activity, and Illinois is having an increase in reports of flu syndrome.
Many people have followed current CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations and received their 2010-11 flu vaccine. The current vaccine contains both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu components for protection.
Unfortunately some people have not yet been vaccinated and are at risk for getting the infection and as well, passing it on to others that may be at high risk for having fatal complications (those who are pregnant, have asthma, other chronic respiratory disorders, diabetes, heart conditions etc.)
Flu Season 2010-11
Current CDC recommendations are for all people 6 months or older to be vaccinated. Yes, this is a broader recommendation for people that should get the flu vaccine compared to previous years. Why?
The risk/benefit ratio for the majority of people older than 6 months is in favor of getting the flu vaccine. In other words, there is more of a benefit (and less risk) to almost anyone getting the vaccine for protection against the flu compared to the risk of not getting the flu vaccine. One who is not a recipient of the current flu vaccine has a higher risk of getting the flu, and therefore having a complication of pneumonia which can be fatal.
Furthermore, if more unvaccinated people get the flu and spread it to high risk contacts (as mentioned above), the number of flu related deaths may go much higher.
Although there are risks of having some side effects from the flu vaccine they are generally mild and short-lived. The majority of people that have so far received the flu vaccine last year and this year have tolerated it well. Currently there are no alerts or concerns about any long-term adverse effects or increased risk for neurological syndromes (for example Guillain Barre Syndrome). But if you have previously had Guillain Barre Syndrome you should not get a flu shot.
Some Important Points:
-Children between 6 months and 8 years of age require two injections, four weeks apart if it is their first flu vaccination.
-If a child between 6 months and 8 years of age received one flu shot last year, two injections spaced four weeks apart should be given this year.
-Even if two H1N1 injections were given last year but no seasonal flu vaccine, a child 6 months-8yrs old should get this year's flu vaccine in two injections spaced four weeks apart if it would be their first seasonal flu shot.
-A new flu vaccine specifically for senior citizens (age 65 or older) which contains a high dose component is available (Fluzone High-Dose).
-People that are morbidly obese (BMI> 40) have been added to the list of those at high risk for complications associated with flu syndrome.
The current flu vaccine has new components that are based on last year's flu season analysis. A vaccination late last winter (for example, in February of 2010) may not be protective for this winter's flu season because of different flu viral particles. Additionally, protective antibodies against the flu tend to decrease over a year's time.
It is not too late to get your flu vaccination. If you are egg allergic or have previously had a reaction to a flu vaccination, consult your doctor about seeing an allergist first.
Learn more about Flu Season 2010-11
Published On: January 11, 2011