Flu Facts and Fictions!Young couple in bed having cold
You can get the flu any time of year, but “flu season” is typically thought of as a late-fall to early-spring phenomenon. Whether your flu season is marked by cooler weather or downright freezing temperatures, no one is immune to flu—regardless of where they live, says Dr. Jim Williams, a personalized care physician with SignatureMD.
Flu, or to use its proper medical name, influenza is a serious disease that is often taken too lightly. Upwards of 49,000 people in the U.S. die each year from the flu or flu-related complications with thousands more requiring hospitalizations. The best way to protect yourself from the disease is to get a flu shot. It’s that simple. Plus, these days, the “flu shot” doesn’t even have to involve a needle. Read on!
There are many misconceptions regarding the flu and flu prevention. Here are some need-to-knows:
- The flu shot is available as an injection or nasal spray
- Some mild reactions to the flu shot are possible and may include soreness, headache, fever, etc.
- The vaccine takes about 2 weeks to develop antibodies in the body
- With the vaccine, you are 60% less likely to need medical attention for flu treatment
- The 2 types of flu vaccines are:
- Trivalent which protects against 3 strands of the flu (A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and influenza B)
- Quadrivalent which protects against 4 strands of the flu (A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and 2 strands of influenza B)
- You cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the flu nasal spray
- The flu is, however, highly contagious and is an airborne virus. You can catch it if someone in your close proximity, that is infected with the flu sneezes and you accidentally inhale their airborne droplets.
- Children are much more infectious than adults and continue to shed virus from just before they develop symptoms until two weeks after infection.
Who is most at risk for catching the flu?
While virtually everyone is susceptible to the flu, these groups are at especially high risk:
- Children & Infants
- Pregnant women
- People with disabilities
- People with health conditions
- Travelers & people living abroad
Jim Williams, M.D., a primary care physician in Washington D.C. with John Hopkins Medicine, sat down with us for a chat on flu prevention strategies:
Q: What is the importance of the flu shot for the elderly?
A: The flu shot is important for older individuals because those 65 and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu. The CDC reports on its website that 90% of flu related deaths occur in people over 65 years of age. More than half of hospitalizations due to the flu occur in this age group as well. Older individuals are at higher risk because our immune systems weaken as we age. There is a higher dose flu shot available for people over 65 years old. This vaccine provides higher antibody production and has been shown to be 24% more effective at preventing influenza A in the elderly. The CDC provides this information and more.
Q: What is the importance of the flu shot in general?
A: In general, a flu shot is the easiest and most effective way to prevent influenza A. This viral infection causes high fevers and cough which means missed work, more doctor visits, and the expense of over the counter medications to treat the symptoms.
Q: Is there any research saying that this year’s flu is supposed to any worse or any better than years past?
A: We do not know when the flu season will peak or which years will prove the worst. Usually, at least 80% of cases occur between January 01 and April 01. Cold dry weather promotes the spread of this airborne contagious illness.
Q: How are the flu shot and the flu nasal spray different?
A: The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine. This means there is no live virus. The nasal spray is a live, attenuated vaccine. Attenuated means the virus is alive but weakened. The nasal vaccine is appropriate for people ages 2-49. Many prefer it because an injection is not required. You should not get the live vaccine if you are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, are allergic to eggs, are a child with asthma or wheezing problems, or are in contact with someone with a weakened immune system. Individuals should check with their healthcare provider to see if the nasal vaccine is appropriate.
- https://signaturemd.com/concierge-physicians/concierge-physician-blog/tips-for-keeping-your-immune-system-healthy-during-flu-season/ How To Keep Your Immune System Healthy During Flu Season
- http://www.totalprimarycare.net. Jim Williams, M.D. – Preserving the Best in Primary Care.
- http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm. Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu.
- http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_prevention. Influenza Prevention.
- http://www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/vaccination/. Vaccine and Vaccine Safety.
- http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/03/why-you-shouldn-t-fear-the-flu-shot.html. Why You Shouldn’t Fear the Flu Shot.
- http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm. Vaccination: Who Should Do It, Who Should Not, and Who Should Take Precautions.
- James Thomas Williams, MD. Johns Hopkins Medicine.