The FIGHT against Influenza

The flu season is here and many people are faced with the same question, “Do I Get the Flu Shot?”

The flu vaccination has been encouraged by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for all persons 6 months and older and also the population that is high risk for severe complications should they become ill with the influenza virus.  The list for the high risk population includes but not limited to: children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women (and women up to two weeks post-partum), residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, also, American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications.  Other high risk people include those with medical conditions including: asthma, chronic lung diseases, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders such as diabetes,  morbid obesity, kidney disorders, liver disorders and weakened immune systems, just to name a few.  Are your one of these high risk individuals?

It is recommended you should not get the flu vaccination if you have had a severe allergy reaction to the flu vaccines in the past.  The severe reaction is described as swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, and or a fast heartbeat.  If you are allergic to egg proteins you should not get the flu vaccine, since the flu vaccines are developed in chicken eggs.

The flu vaccination works by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies against the flu virus.  The flu shot is beneficial but the percentage of flu vaccine effectiveness varies from season to season.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention works diligently throughout the world working year round to identify which viruses are circulation and to study their patterns.  The FDA then uses the information to try to predict what vaccines will be needed each year.  The vaccines are selected early so that appropriate testing can be completed in order for the vaccine to be available prior to the flu season.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that even if the vaccine is not an exact match that it can still offer protection against circulation strands due to the similarities that do exist among the influenza virus.  The flu season according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is as early as October and late as May, with peak time December through February.  Since it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to build up antibodies in the body that protect against the influenza virus infection, it is recommended that people start receiving the vaccination as early as October or when the flu vaccination becomes available and as late as January.  The vaccine is intended to last through the flu season and immunity decreases throughout the year.  The duration of the vaccination varies from person to person therefore it is recommended to update annually for adequate immunity.

Many people have the beliefs of getting sick from the flu vaccination.  The most common side effects of getting a flu shot include hypersensitivity reactions such as a rash, local reactions at the injection site, and influenza like symptoms such as mild fever, cough, sore throat, headache and muscle pain.  If the symptoms occur, they usually occur shortly following injection and can last up to 1 to 2 days following.  These symptoms make people believe they caught the flu following the flu vaccination, but the influenza vaccine does not cause the flu.  It is possible however to get the flu following receiving the influenza vaccination if you were exposed to a different strain of infection or not being vaccinated early enough.

The flu virus causes similar symptoms as a cold but the severity is usually much worse.  The flu virus can progress to high fevers, intense body aches, a cough and muscle pain.  If you become ill from an influenza virus you run the risk of increased complications including infections attacking your respiratory system such as sinus infection, bronchitis or pneumonia, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death.

The flu vaccine continues to be a very controversial and complicated topic.  It continues to be a health care challenge to educate and encourage people of all ages and beliefs.  The challenge exists encouraging people to participate taking full advantage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA’s fight against influenza illness.