WHAT IS FLU?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by Influenza A or B viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. It can range from mild to severe.
When ill with the flu, people often feel some (or even all) of these flu symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with the flu actually gets a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
HOW DOES IT SPREAD?
The flu virus is spread from person to person through respiratory secretions and typically sweeps through large groups of people who spend time in close contact, such as in offices, classrooms, daycare facilities, nursing homes, college dormitories, and military barracks. Influenza usually spreads through droplets that are created when those with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk—specifically, when these droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Sometimes (though, less often) a person can even catch the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then afterward touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.
WHO’S AT GREATEST RISK FOR FLU COMPLICATIONS?
While anyone can get flu, infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, asthma or COPD, HIV, and people who are very obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher are at highest risk for flu complications (e.g. pneumonia and death). Despite advances in flu prevention and treatment, the CDC estimates that deaths related to influenza range from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths in the United States each year.
Specific strains of flu can be prevented by a flu vaccine. In addition, antiviral medications are available to prevent flu. These drugs may help reduce the severity and the duration of flu and are best used within the first 48 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms.
HOW TO PREVENT?
The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
WHAT IS FLU VACCINE?
The Flu vaccine contains killed (inactivated), viruses that help the body to develop immunity about two weeks after vaccination. The body produces antibodies that give protection against the viruses that are in the vaccine. The vaccine usually contains 3 types of influenza virus. That means that it will only protect you against the three types of influenza virus used to make the vaccine. It will not protect you from influenza caused by other types of influenza virus or from infections with other agents causing flu-like symptoms (such as the common cold).
WHEN IT IS GIVEN?
The Flu vaccine is generally given as a single dose each year during autumn.
For some people, particularly those with low immunity, and children (aged 6 months to 9 years) who are receiving influenza vaccination for the first time, a second dose should be given 4 weeks after the first dose. However, one dose is sufficient for most people and especially those who have been vaccinated against influenza in an earlier year.
WHO SHOULDN’T RECEIVE FLU VACCINATION?
Do not have Flu Vaccine if:
- You have had an allergic reaction or became unwell after any other flu vaccine before.
Signs of an allergic reaction may include itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue.
- You are allergic to chicken proteins such as in eggs or feathers.
- You are allergic to gentamicin.
- You have a present severe infection with a high temperature.
Tell your doctor if:
- You have been allergic to any other medicines, foods, dyes or preservatives.
- You have had flu vaccine before and became unwell, tell your doctor before the next dose is given.
- You are pregnant or intend to become pregnant.
- You are breast feeding.
Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination; however, the vaccine is not expected to cause problems for breast-fed babies.
- You have ever had an illness affecting the nervous system, especially Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).
If you have had GBS, you may be more likely to develop GBS following influenza vaccination than someone who has never had GBS.
- You have any medical conditions, such as an immune deficiency condition or a bleeding disorder.
- You are taking any other medicines, including any that you buy without a prescription from a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop, or have received another vaccine.
- MILD EVENTS:
- redness, swelling, a hard lump, soreness, bruising or itching around the injection site
- fever, chills, headache, malaise (generally unwell)
- muscle aches and pains
- MORE SERIOUS EFFECTS THAT MAY OCCUR RARELY:
- swelling of limbs, face, eyes, inside of nose, mouth or throat
- shortness of breath, breathing or swallowing difficulties
- hives, itching (especially of the hands or feet), reddening of skin (especially around the ears), or severe skin reactions
- unusual tiredness or weakness that is sudden and severe.
* TELL YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU NOTICE ANYTHING ELSE THAT IS MAKING YOU FEEL UNWELL.
* DO NOT BE ALARMED BY THIS LIST OF POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS. YOU MAY NOT EXPERIENCE ANY OF THEM.
IMPORTANCE OF FLU VACCINE:
There are many reasons to get an influenza (flu) vaccine each year.
- Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
- Flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. For example, during 2017-2018, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.1 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 109,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 8,000 influenza-associated deaths.
- During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent.
- Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults.
- Flu vaccine prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2017-2018, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 109,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
- A 2014 study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
- flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%.
- A 2018 study showed that from 2012 to 2015, flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with flu by 82 percent.
- Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
- Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.
- Flu vaccination can reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
- Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
- Vaccination reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by about one-half.
- A 2018 study that included influenza seasons from 2010-2016 showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent.
- A number of studies have shown that in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth, when he or she is not old enough to be vaccinated.
- Flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
- A 2017 study was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.
- Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
- A 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.
- A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent 4 fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.
- Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information on the topic.