Taming of the flu
Now is the time to get vaccinated, writes Lisa Salmon
THE flu season is just around the corner, and with cases of the virus already starting to appear, now is the best time to get yourself protected.
Flu is a nasty and potentially dangerous infection, and its impact is often underestimated.
Between October 2017 and February 2018, 102 people died from flu according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Over half (55%) of hospital admissions were due to the influenza B strain.
While the peak flu season doesn’t usually begin until December, now is the best time to get vaccinated, as it takes between 10-14 days for the immune system to respond fully afterwards.
Medics advise that the optimum time to have a flu vaccine is from the beginning of October to the end of November — if you have the vaccine later, it will still offer some protection. 10 things you should know about flu: 1. When someone with flu coughs or sneezes, expelled droplets can infect people up to 6ft away.
In Ireland, the annual flu season runs from about October to March or April, although most cases occur between December and February.
Flu can mean a trip to the GP or, worse, a hospital stay. But, if you’re otherwise healthy, the virus will usually clear up on its own within a week.
The flu virus is extremely variable and changes over time. Each year there are different strains around, and a new vaccine has to be prepared to deal with them. Vaccination from previous years isn’t likely to protect people against current strains of flu.
Each year, the viruses most likely to cause flu are identified and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends which type of strains to include in the vaccine.
Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Project says there are three basic types of flu: A, B and C. Type A is the most dangerous and can cause serious disease and trigger worldwide pandemics. Type B can make you feel very ill, but has never led to a pandemic, and Type C causes mild disease.
Typically, effectiveness of the flu vaccine is in the range of 30-60%, and medics stress that having a flu vaccination won’t stop all flu viruses, and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free.
However, if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorterlived than it would otherwise have been.
Side-effects of the nasal vaccine may include a runny or blocked nose, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite. The injected vaccine may have side-effects including a sore arm at the site of the injection, a lowgrade fever and aching muscles for a day or two after the vaccination. Serious side-effects with either the nasal spray or jab are extremely rare.
The European Commission estimates more deaths are caused by flu than by car accidents across the continent each year. Yet, around 100 million people recommended for the flu jab annually don’t take it up despite recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
Research from the Universities of Lincoln and Nottingham suggests the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of having a stroke by about a quarter.
WARNING SIGN: More lives are lost to influenza than to road accidents each year.