The Flu and You: 2015 Update

Health Professional
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Each autumn, it's appropriate to remind people with diabetes (and everyone else) to get your annual flu vaccination.

Flu (more officially called influenza) is a viral infection that will, at least, cause a few days of misery, and, at most, can kill. It's caused by several closely-related viruses, and from year to year, the viruses mutate a bit. This makes it necessary for new vaccines to be developed, and thus making it necessary for you to get re-vaccinated to maintain protection from the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its influenza website with this year's information at What You Should Know for the 2016-2017 Influenza Season. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual flu vaccination. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.

This year's flu season shapes up to be unpredictable (as usual). Severity, timing and length of the "flu season" vary from year to year, and the CDC admits that, "The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February." Additionally, the available flu vaccine may not be optimal for the viruses that are active this year: "It's not possible to predict with certainty if the vaccine will be a good match for circulating viruses. The vaccine is made to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will likely be most common during the season. However, experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance in order for the vaccine to be produced and delivered on time."

Besides the traditional "flu shot," there are other ways to get the vaccine. For instance, a jet injector is now approved for delivery of one particular flu vaccine in people 18 through 64 years of age. More information is at the CDC's website, at Flu Vaccination by Jet Injector. Additionally, there are nasal spray vaccines and an intradermal (into-the-skin) version of the vaccine. And the shots come in different varieties: high-dose for folks 65 and older and egg-free. As the CDC points out, "There are many vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional."

And if you have diabetes, it's really important. The CDC has a webpage, Flu and People with Diabetes, where they point out, "People with diabetes [PWD], even when well-managed, are at high risk of serious flu complications, often resulting in hospitalization and sometimes even death." They recommend that PWD get the shot, not the nasal spray flu vaccine, as the shot "has a long, established safety record in people with diabetes."

Finally, like everyone else, PWD should follow common-sense guidelines to help keep yourself and others from getting and spreading the flu:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Stay home if you have been exposed to a family or household member who is sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Wash hands or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth if you are sick and around people or at a mass gathering in a community where the pandemic is already occurring.

But most important, get vaccinated!

Updated On: Dec 2, 2016