Understanding Seasonal Influenza and Vaccination Recommendations

September 15, 2015

If it is not treated properly or quickly, influenza is serious enough to cause death or extended hospitalization. Since flu seasons are different every year, it is important to understand how different strains affect different people. Even people who are otherwise healthy may contract the flu and spread it to others. Flu-related deaths are more likely in people over the age of 65. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in this age group. Flu viruses may circulate any time during the year. It is important to be vaccinated for optimal protection. There are shots and nasal sprays for this purpose.

Flu vaccine helps antibodies develop within a few weeks of receiving a vaccination. According to experts, the vaccines are designed to protect people against the most dangerous flu strains. There are trivalent vaccines that protect against the three main types of flu and quadrivalent vaccines that protect against four different strains. Trivalent vaccines protect against H1N1 and H3N2, which are both Influenza A strains. They also protect against one Influenza B strain. High-dose vaccines are available for people over the age of 65. For those who are under the age of 65, some vaccines are available for all ages including babies. The quadrivalent vaccines protect against the Influenza A strains and two Influenza B strains. They are also available in some forms for all age groups. Nasal sprays are approved for people up to age 49.

Anyone who is over the age of 6 months should be vaccinated every flu season. The Centers for Disease Control enacted this recommendation in 2010. People who are in high risk groups for serious complications from influenza should make sure they never miss a vaccine. While everyone should be vaccinated, they should only be vaccinated with approved forms of products. For example, a person over the age of 60 should not have the quadrivalent nasal spray vaccine. People who have egg allergies should talk to their doctors before seeking any type of vaccine. The same applies to people who have several different allergies.

It is important to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccines become available each season. An optimal time to seek vaccination is in October. Flu vaccines may be available as late as January or even after that. The vaccine takes a few weeks to start working optimally. For this reason, it is best to seek vaccination before December. The spread and severity of influenza usually peaks in January. Since availability depends on manufacturing volume and demand, it is important to start looking as early as possible. This is especially important for people at a higher risk for contracting influenza.

Flu vaccines are usually available in a general practitioner's office. They may also be offered for reduced prices at pharmacy flu shot clinics, by employers, at health centers and at schools. People who do not have a regular doctor can still receive a vaccine at a pharmacy, an educational institution or a health department. For those who work in large companies, it is best to check with an employer about setting up a flu shot clinic in the workplace. Since the body's immune responses decrease over time, annual vaccines are crucial. In addition to this, flu strains are constantly changing and often become far more severe.

Keep in mind that getting a flu shot does not eliminate every chance of contracting influenza. People may still contract it. Practice good disease prevention steps, and be sure to wash hands frequently and disinfect surfaces in the home regularly. Teach kids good hygiene habits. Discourage them from rubbing their noses with their hands. Wash bedding, clothing and shoes regularly, and use Lysol or a similar disinfectant on doorknobs and handles every day during flu season. For more information, discuss concerns with an agent.

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