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