2017-09-20 / Front Page

Flu season can begin in October; health officials recommend vaccines

by Kate Evans

Flu season is approaching and health officials say an annual seasonal flu vaccine can help protect against severe cases of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months old and up receive a seasonal influenza vaccine every year by the end of October if possible. Flu vaccines provide protection from influenza and prevent flu-related complications, missed work and school and many flu-related hospitalizations and deaths each year.

Since 2010, the CDC estimates that flu has resulted in 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations each year. Some 106 influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported during the 2016-2017 flu season.

Flu season can begin as early as October and can last as late as May. Typically flu season peaks between December and March each year. People should receive their influenza vaccine before the flu begins to spread in communities. It takes around two weeks for the body to develop antibodies against the flu from the vaccine and to provide protection from influenza infection. Getting the vaccine later in the season can still be beneficial.

Pneumonia vaccines are also recommended for children and adults of all ages. Children and people 65 years of age and older are the most susceptible to pneumonia.

Flu shot options

This year’s flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating flu viruses and the influenza H1N1 virus component was updated, according to CDC information.

The 2017-2018 flu season vaccines include a standard dose three-strain (trivalent) vaccine consisting of two Influenza A virus strains (H1N1 and H2N3) and one Influenza B virus strain. A high-dose three-strain influenza vaccine is recommended for those age 65 and older due to their lower immunity. A four-strain (quadravalent) vaccine made of the same Influenza A virus strains and two Influenza B strains is also available.

The CDC recommends that the nasal spray flu vaccine not be used again this year because of concerns about its effectiveness.

Doctors can advise about what are the best flu and pneumonia vaccine options for individuals. Flu and pneumonia vaccines are available through county health departments, family physicians and pharmacies.

Flu symptoms, complications

Influenza symptoms usually are fever, cough or sore throat and can also include headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, chills or body aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, especially in children.

Influenza can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Complications can require hospitalization and become life-threatening or fatal. Influenza can also worsen chronic medical conditions such as asthma or congestive heart disease.

High-risk

Individuals at high risk of developing flu complications include children under age five, especially those under age two, adults over 50 years old, especially those 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and nursing home and long-term care facility residents.

Others at high risk include those with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney or liver disorders and those with weakened or suppressed immune systems.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is also very important for those at high risk of flurelated complications, for caretakers and family members of those individuals and also health care personnel.

Pneumonia vaccine

The CDC recommends PCV13 (Prevnar 13) pneumonia vaccines for all children under five years old, all adults 65 years or older and people six years of age and older with certain risk factors, medical conditions/diseases or medical treatment that lowers resistance to infection.

PPSV23 (Pneumovax23) is recommended for all adults 65 years of age or older and for people age two through 64 with long-term health conditions that are at risk for pneumonia.

Tips to prevent illness

Hand washing with soap and water often can prevent flu and other illness. Use alcohol based hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available.

Stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or one’s sleeve and avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth to prevent spreading germs.

Clean and disinfect commonly used objects and surfaces and limit one’s contact with others while sick.

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