Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and is characterized by symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle/body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea.
Receiving the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the flu. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. As more people are vaccinated, the more protection exists for those around you (herd immunity), including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
In addition to getting the vaccination, you can take everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of germs, such as staying away from sick people and washing your hands frequently. If you are sick with flu, it is best to stay home from work or school to prevent transmission of the flu to others.
What’s New This 2017 Flu Season?
- For the 2017-2018 season, the recommendation remains in place to NOT use the nasal spray flu vaccine. Only injectable flu shots are recommended this season.
- Flu vaccines are updated every year to better match circulating viruses. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses.
- Two new quadrivalent flu vaccines have been licensed. These vaccines protect against four flu viruses. There are also flu vaccines that protect against three (trivalent) flu viruses.
When should I get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. In most years, the flu peaks between December and February, although flu season can last as late as May. It takes approximately two weeks after receiving your vaccine for antibodies to develop in the body, so it is best to make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. If you are unable to get your flu vaccine in the recommended timeframe, it can still benefit you to receive vaccination later in the season.
What flu vaccine should I get instead of the nasal spray vaccine?
People who usually get the nasal spray vaccine are advised to get an injectable flu vaccine during the 2017-2018 season. This is due to concerns regarding effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine. There are many different formulations of injectable flu vaccines approved for use in different people. Your healthcare provider should be consulted to make sure you are receiving the appropriate flu vaccine.
According to the CDC, people who develop symptoms such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, recurrent emesis, or who have needed epinephrine or other emergency medical interventions, can get any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health. In this case, the vaccine should be administered in a medical setting (i.e. hospitals, clinics, health departments, and physician offices) and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.
What should I do if I get sick with the flu?
Even after receiving the flu vaccine, it is possible to get sick with the flu. Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you develop flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to obtain medical care.
If you are in a high risk group (such as children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, or are very sick or worried about your illness), contact your health care provider right away. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication for treatment of the flu. Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, and may prevent serious complications.
Flu Vaccines at Golden Gate Obstetrics & Gynecology
Currently, our practice is offering the flu vaccine to all of our pregnant and breastfeeding patients. We encourage all others to obtain a flu vaccination with their primary care providers or at a local pharmacy that offers the vaccine.
Information in this blog adapted from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm