So far this flu season, Houston is doing pretty well in not having too many cases. But it’s early days, with flu season has just started at the beginning of October. There’s still plenty of time before we’re out of danger, so all the more reason to get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
For those who’re not sure they’d benefit from getting a flu jab, here are five things you need to know:
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
The short answer is everyone over the age of 6 months.
Some years ago, the flu vaccine was recommended only for vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with reduced immune system capabilities. Since 2010, however, the United States has had a universal vaccination policy which advises everyone to get the shot in order to prevent epidemics. There are outbreaks of flu every year in Houston, and if the number of people who take up the vaccine increases, the number of hospitalizations, or even deaths, from the virus will decrease.
People in high-risk groups should give particular urgency to getting vaccinated. High-risk groups include those with:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney or liver disorders
Also included in this group are pregnant women, young children and those over 65.
How Effective is the Vaccine?
Because virus strains mutate and change every year, it’s impossible to predict exactly which flu strains will circulate. But researchers bring extensive knowledge to bear that makes prediction pretty accurate all the same.
Not only does the virus change each year, it can also change as the year progresses. The vaccine for the 2015-1016 season incorporates the strain that caused the most illness last year, so researchers are confident it will prove effective.
The current flu vaccine is available now throughout Texas, and the Department of State Health Services wants everyone to remember there’s no good reason to wait. The number of outbreaks will only rise as the season progresses, and it takes a couple of weeks after getting the shot for immunization to build up.
Flu Vaccine Options for 2017-2018
Both trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines are available.
Trivalent vaccines provide protection against two influenzas A viruses and an influenza B virus. These are available as:
- Standard dose shots. They use viruses grown in eggs and are suitable for people in different age groups with some being approved for babies from six months of age. Most shots are injected with a needle although one can be given with a jet injector for those over age 18.
- A high-dose shot. These are approved for those over 65 years of age.
- A shot manufactured with viruses grown in a cell culture.
- A shot that is egg-free for those over 18.
Quadrivalent vaccines offer protection from two influenzas A viruses and two B viruses. It is available as:
- The standard shot for all age groups, including those from 6 months of age.
- An intradermal shot, injected into the skin rather than muscle, using a smaller needle.
- A nasal spray vaccine, which is suitable for those between the ages of 2 and 49 years of age.
Preventing Flu from Spreading
While getting vaccinated is the best way of protecting yourself and others from the virus, common sense tactics can also help prevent it spreading to those who choose not take the vaccine:
- Frequent hand washing. You’ll wash off any virus you’ve picked up, thereby protecting yourself, and prevent accidentally spreading it at the same time.
- A cough or sneeze into a tissue, or even your arm or sleeve if a sneeze catches you without a tissue to hand.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay away from those you know who have flu.
- Stay at home if you fall ill.
People often mistake a heavy cold for flu, but while some symptoms are apparent in both conditions, there are distinct differences. Flu symptoms come on very quickly and include fever and body aches, headaches and fatigue as well as coughs, sore throats, and runny or blocked noses.
Who Should Not Get the Flu Shot?
A few people shouldn’t be vaccinated for health reasons. These include babies less than six months of age (but they will already have immunity if the mother was vaccinated while pregnant), and those with severe reactions to the vaccine ingredients such as gelatin or antibiotics. Others of concern include those with egg allergies, but you can talk to your doctor or other health specialists for advice as there are options.
Different types of flu shots are intended for different age groups, for instance, the high dose is only for those over 65, and the intradermal shot is not suitable for those under 18 or over 64. If you have any concerns about whether the flu shot is recommended in your circumstances, your doctor will advise.
If you’re ready to get your flu shot or are already suffering from symptoms, visit SignatureCare Emergency Center at one of our two locations today.
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