Well, it’s that time of year again and there are a lot of things to look forward to. However, there are some things we are all trying to avoid as well…that’s right, getting sick. Here are the Top 5 Questions for this year’s Flu Season.
What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Influenza is unpredictable. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one season to another. The best way to predict what kind of flu season it will be is to look at Australia. Flu hits there 6 months prior to hitting the United States. And in 2019, Australia had a bad flu season.
So, experts are predicting a bad flu season for 2019-2010 in the US.
When should I get vaccinated?
Because the timing of the onset, peak and end of flu seasons varies from year to year and cannot be predicted, it is difficult to say when is the best time to be vaccinated for any one season. In trying to balance the need to get many people vaccinated before flu activity begins with concerns about potential waning of vaccine-induced immunity during the flu season, CDC and ACIP recommend that vaccination be offered by the end of October.
Children 6 months through 8 years of age who need 2 doses should receive their first dose as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available to allow the second dose (which must be administered at least 4 weeks later) to be received by the end of October.
For people who need only one dose for the season, vaccinating early – for example, in July or August –may lead to reduced protection against flu later in the season, particularly among older adults. While vaccination should optimally occur before the onset of flu activity in the community, providers should continue to offer and encourage vaccination as long as flu viruses are active and unexpired vaccine is available. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, vaccination can be offered during routine health care visits and hospitalizations.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even by some schools.
Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.
At Family Choice Urgent Care, you can just walk-in. We will get you your flu vaccine within 15 minutes.
Can I get vaccinated and still get flu?
Yes, it’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test). This is possible for the following reasons:
- You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with the flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (Antibodies that provide protection develop in the body about 2 weeks after vaccination.)
- You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. A flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
- Flu vaccine varies in how well it works, and unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus that a flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. It also can vary based on the match between the vaccine viruses used to produce vaccine and circulating viruses that season. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination. Flu vaccination is not a perfect product, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.
- Even if you do get the flu after being vaccinated, some studies have shown that a flu vaccine can reduce the severity of your illness.
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.
What should I do to protect myself from the flu this season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this potentially serious disease.
In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the flu to others. In addition, there are prescription medications called anti-viral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness.
What should I do if I get sick with the flu?
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of the flu and are at high risk of flu complications, or are very sick or concerned about your illness, contact your healthcare provider. There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating flu called antivirals. These drugs can make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications.
Antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications recommended for prompt antiviral treatment include children younger than 2 years of age (although all children younger than 5 years are considered at higher risk for complications from flu, the highest risk is for those younger than 2 years of age), adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with certain long-term medical conditions, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities). Antiviral treatment as early as possible is also recommended for people who are very sick with flu (such as those with complicated, progressive illness or people hospitalized because of flu). Other people can be treated with antivirals at their health care professional’s discretion. Treating high risk people or people who are very sick with flu with antiviral drugs is very important. Studies show that prompt treatment with antiviral drugs can prevent serious flu complications. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick. However, treatment can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness. Antiviral drugs are effective across all age and risk groups. Studies show that antiviral drugs are under-prescribed for people who are at high risk of complications who get flu. Four FDA-approved antiviral medications are recommended for use during the 2019-2020 flu season: oseltamivir (available in generic versions and under the trade name Tamiflu®), zanamivir (Relenza®), peramivir (Rapivab®), and baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza®).
More information about Influenza, please visit the CDC’s website for additional resources.