Dr. Matthew Bogard, medical doctor, practices Family Medicine and Emergency Medicine in Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. READ MORE.
Its fall and that means that the flu season is upon us. Some of you may have already gotten the flu vaccine, but for those who haven’t it’s not too late.
For the most part, we underestimate the seriousness of the flu and place it next to the common cold. This is a common misconception, but just so you know, the Influenza virus is considerably more serious in nature.
As per CDC estimates, it has caused between 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and as many as 12,000 and 56,000 deaths annually in the U.S. since 2010. A yearly flu vaccine is the first step towards gaining protection against this disease and the CDC recommends it for everyone who is 6 months of age and older.
What can the flu do?
Initially, flu viruses will infect your nose, throat and lungs, but it can go on to cause a wide range of complications. While sinus and ear infections are moderate complications, Pneumonia is a serious flu complication that arises either due to the flu infection itself or if you’re simultaneously infected by bacteria as well as the flu virus.
Other more serious complications include inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle. It can also cause multi-organ failure. An extreme inflammatory response can result in sepsis.
In the past 7 flu seasons, influenza vaccination prevented around 5.3 million illnesses and 85,000 hospitalizations and as per the CDC a mere 5% increase in the number of vaccinations could have further prevented as many as 483,000 influenza illnesses/. It would have stopped another two hundred thousand plus influenza-associated medical visits, and around seven thousand influenza-associated hospitalizations across the U.S.A.
Who is at risk?
While anyone can get the flu, some people are susceptible to a more severe form of infection. These include:
* Children younger than 5 years old, particularly those that are younger than 2 years old
* People older than 65 years old
* People suffering from asthma or chronic lung disease
* People with neurological conditions, heart disease and those suffering from blood, liver, kidney, endocrine and metabolic disorders
* People whose immune system has recently been compromised due to an illness
* Pregnant women
How effective is the flu shot?
Since there are different strains of the influenza virus each year, the flu vaccine needs to be modified accordingly to target the particular strain that will circulate that year. However, there is no way of knowing which strain it might be. Thus, the effectiveness of the vaccine is somewhat compromised. Despite this, the CDC still heavily recommends that you get the flu vaccine as it offers at least some degree of protection even if it’s not completely effective in preventing the disease. Also, since the influenza virus is transmittable, it is logical to assume that if a fewer number of people get sick, then the virus won’t be able to penetrate as deeply and spread.
Besides CDC, other professional medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases and the American Medical Association also recommend an annual flu vaccine.
What flu vaccines are available for 2018-2019?
There are several options for the 2018-2019 flu season, these include:
* Standard dose flu shots given into the muscle. A needle is used to inject these, but for some people between the ages of 18 and 64 years old, a jet injector can be used.
* Shots made with adjuvant. These are suitable for older people.
* Shots made the help of virus previously grown via cell culture technique.
* Shots made using vaccine production technology. These do not employ the flu virus and follow a different mechanism.
* The nasal spray vaccine, also known as the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). This is recommended for use in non-pregnant individuals between the ages of 2 and 49 years. People with underlying medical conditions are advised against using the nasal spray flu vaccine.
What are the side-effects?
The influenza vaccine is made from an inactivated or weakened version of the influenza virus so you might experience flu-like symptoms post vaccination. These will subside however, and you won’t suffer from a full bout of the flu. There may also be some redness or swelling in the arm that was administered the flu shot, and low-grade fever. The side-effects are not really a matter of concern because really it just means that the vaccine is working and will be able to protect you from the actual virus.
Will last year’s flu shot work?
No. There are two reasons for this. First, the immune response generated by last year’s vaccine has gradually declined. Therefore, you need to be injected with a new one for continued protection.
Another thing with the flu virus is that it is constantly changing in form. The flu vaccine is also analyzed accordingly and redesigned to combat new forms of the virus each year.
Where can you get one?
Flu vaccines are easily available at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies and college health centers. Many employers and schools offer them as well.
It is recommended to get a flu shot before the virus starts spreading in your community as it takes around 2 weeks for your body to build up a sufficient immune response to protect you from it. If you’re looking to get one, it is best not to wait around and get one as soon as possible to ensure maximum protection.
When should you avoid a flu shot?
While the CDC recommends that anyone older than 6 months get the flu shot, including pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions, there are exceptions. If you’re severely allergic to the components in the flu shot then you should not get vaccinated. If you have ever had the Guillan-Barré Syndrome (An immune disorder), then consult your doctor before getting a flu shot.
One of the components involved in the manufacturing of flu vaccines are eggs but as per the CDC, even if you suffer from egg allergies, you can still get the flu shot. In case your allergies are serious and you are concerned side effects from vaccinations, please consult your doctor.
Dr. Matt Bogard practices Emergency Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska. During his time at Nebraska College of Medicine, he was selected to join the Advanced Rural Training Program, a four-year residency program that trains physicians to provide comprehensive full-spectrum medical care. During his residency, Dr. Bogard served on the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians, was active with the Nebraska Medical Association, mentored multiple medical students and was honored by the Nebraska Legislature as “Family Physician of the Day.” Matthew Bogard primarily practices Emergency Medicine.
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewbogard/