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Avoid Getting The Flu

Man blowing his nose in canola field
Man blowing his nose in canola field

Leaves are changing color and a chill is in the air – not to mention coughs, runny noses and sneezes. Fall is here, and with it comes the advent of flu season, which means it’s time to get your annual flu immunization. Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and, in some cases, lead to complications that result in hospitalization or death.

The best way to avoid getting the flu is to have an annual flu vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctors’ offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools. Health experts recommend that adults and children receive a flu vaccination well ahead of the flu season. Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and generally peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but can continue to occur as late as May.
The flu vaccine is made from a virus that has been killed. That means you can’t catch the flu from a flu shot. When this virus is injected through a flu shot your body’s immune system recognizes that a foreign substance is present. It then makes antibodies, which are proteins that attach to the virus. These antibodies signal the immune system to attack and destroy the virus. The process of antibody generation and building of immunity takes about two weeks. After that, if a live virus enters your body, the immune system can recognize it, respond and destroy it. Since the flu virus changes every year, last year’s antibodies won’t protect you from this year’s flu. That’s why an annual flu vaccine is necessary.
This season’s flu vaccine is designed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common. Most flu vaccines, called trivalent vaccines, are made to protect against three flu viruses. For the 2016-2017 flu season, they are influenza A (H1N1) virus; influenza A (H3N2) virus; and influenza B virus. In addition, this season, there are flu vaccines developed to protect against four flu viruses. These quadrivalent vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an additional B virus.

Who should get vaccinated?
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccination this season, according to the CDC. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated, including:
• people who are at high risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia if they get sick with the flu
• people who have certain medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease
• pregnant women
• children younger than 5 years of age, and especially those younger than 2
• people 65 years of age and older
• people who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications, including household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old and healthcare personnel

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?
Some people should not get a flu vaccination without first consulting their doctor. These include:
• people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
• children younger than 6 months of age
• people who have a moderate-to-severe illness, with or without a fever. They should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.

In addition, anyone who has ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or has had a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine should talk with their doctor before having the vaccination. The flu vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent the flu, but minimizes your chances of contracting the flu virus. And, if you do get the flu, the vaccine helps to minimize the symptoms.

What’s new this flu season?
According to the CDC, here are a few new things this flu season:
• Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use this season.
• Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.
• There will be some new vaccines on the market this season.
• The recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, but rather to increase awareness and help equip patients with information to facilitate conversations with their physician.

Article courtesy of Affinity Medical Center. For more information, contact their website at

Avoid Getting The Flu

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