If you still need to get your flu shot, don’t de­lay any longer

The Fresno Bee - - Life - BY JANE E. BRODY

If you’ve waited un­til now to get your flu shot, your pro­cras­ti­na­tion may ac­tu­ally pay off, though you’d be un­wise to de­lay get­ting the vac­cine any longer.

Al­though there are some cases of flu in Oc­to­ber and November in the U.S., flu sea­son here doesn’t usu­ally get go­ing full speed un­til December, peak­ing in most years in Fe­bru­ary and usu­ally end­ing by April.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, the na­tion’s in­fec­tious dis­ease watch­dog, rec­om­mends that ev­ery­one, start­ing at age 6 months, get a sea­sonal flu shot every year. Chil­dren younger than 6 months can be pro­tected if their moth­ers get a flu shot dur­ing preg­nancy. An­nual vac­ci­na­tion is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for peo­ple 65 and older, those with a chronic ill­ness, preg­nant women and any­one with com­pro­mised im­mu­nity.

It’s very im­por­tant that chil­dren, too, get vac­ci­nated with the cur­rent year’s vac­cine. A high­er­po­tency vac­cine is now avail­able for older men and women.

The flu virus is read­ily trans­mit­ted to oth­ers start­ing the day be­fore you de­velop any tell­tale signs of the in­fec­tion, which comes on sud­denly. You may be fine in the morn­ing and feel like you’ve been hit by a truck by af­ter­noon. A seem­ingly healthy child who is in­cu­bat­ing the virus can eas­ily trans­mit it to a dozen oth­ers be­fore they know they are sick.

I’ve of­ten heard peo­ple de­cline the vac­cine be­cause they once got flu­like symp­toms af­ter the in­jec­tion, or they came down with the flu de­spite it. Facts:

1. The vac­cine does not, and can­not, cause the flu. Ei­ther they were in­fected be­fore they were im­mu­nized or be­fore im­mu­nity took hold, or the fever and aches they ex­pe­ri­enced were side ef­fects of the vac­ci­na­tion, not the flu it­self.

2. As cur­rently for­mu­lated, the vac­cine is far from per­fect, al­though it may still lessen the sever­ity of the ill­ness and like­li­hood of com­pli­ca­tions.

The big­gest prob­lem with flu vac­cine is the need to de­ter­mine months in ad­vance of flu sea­son which of the virus vari­ants to in­clude.

If the vari­ants in­cluded in the vac­cine dif­fer from those that are ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for sea­sonal out­breaks, pro­tec­tion is likely to be greatly re­duced.

Un­til a safe, ef­fec­tive, broad-based vac­cine be­comes a re­al­ity, we have to work with the im­per­fect vac­cine we have. In ad­di­tion to get­ting im­mu­nized (keep in mind that it takes about two weeks for the vac­cine to be fully pro­tec­tive), any­one with flu­like symp­toms should stay home.

The virus is spread mainly by droplets when in­fected peo­ple cough, sneeze or talk from as much as 6 feet away and the virus-laden droplets land in the mouths or noses of oth­ers. Al­ways cover coughs and sneezes with a tis­sue you dis­card, or cover your mouth with the crook of your el­bow. Avoid touch­ing your eyes, nose and mouth un­less you have just washed your hands.

The flu virus can sur­vive for up to eight hours on hard sur­faces, so it can be picked up from a door­knob, handrail or even a light switch.

There are two pre­scrip­tion drugs avail­able for out­pa­tients, Tam­i­flu and Re­lenza. If your doc­tor pre­scribes one within two days of your get­ting sick, it may re­duce sever­ity and du­ra­tion of your ill­ness.

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