Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FLU News: 2011 Season

Flu season can be a scary, challenging time for all of us, especially the last two years, thanks to H1N1 (formerly known as the Swine Flu). The BAD news this year is that we're already seeing some cases of the flu, but the GOOD news is that we already have this year's flu vaccine available, and it will provide immunity to several strains of the flu, including the 2009 H1N1. In fact, each year the flu vaccine has three parts, including an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.

There are two types of vaccines offered- a live vaccine, which is a weakened version of the virus (this is the nasal spray vaccine) and a "killed" vaccine, the traditional injection. I often hear patients say they "got the flu" from the vaccine, but that is impossible from the injection because those viral particles are NOT ALIVE- they can NOT cause disease. It takes about two weeks for your body's immunity to kick in after the shot, so plan ahead, especially if you are traveling.

In the 2010-2011 flu season, which peaked in early February 2011, was less severe than the pandemic flu season the year before, but still had very significant impact on our population. While most people infected have a miserable several days to a week of symptoms, there were over 300 deaths confirmed to be from influenza, including over 100 pediatric deaths (average age around 6 years.) This is not a disease to be ignored.

WHO should get the flu vaccine this year? The CDC recommends that "EVERYONE 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the 2011-2012 vaccines are available." And that is NOW! Don't worry about the effects wearing off before the end of flu season, by the way, because the effects last throughout the whole season.

When is flu season? Though typically we say October to January, it really starts with September and most likely extend beyond February this year. Let's be proactive and line up early to receive a vaccination, and then follow up with consistent hand-washing and STAYING HOME if we get sick! I LOVE that all our grocery stores, and many other public places now have the anti-bacterial cleansers positioned right as you enter their store- USE IT!

BOTTOM LINE: Don't wait- head to your doctor's office or your pharmacy for a FLU VACCINE now!

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