What is the Flu?
Flu – or Influenza in medical terms – is a contagious disease caused by infection from the Influenza Virus. It is spread by sneezing, coughing and nasal secretions. The symptoms for flu usually last for a few days in most people. They include coughing, sore throat, fatigue, headache, fever, chills, muscle aches and runny or stuffy nose.
Who is more likely to get an infection?
Anyone can get the flu, however it is more common and more serious in certain populations. People who are more likely to get the flu include young children, people over 65 years of age, and pregnant women. Additionally, people with health conditions such as lung, heart or kidney diseases or weak immune system can get very sick from influenza. The flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia, which may become a serious medical condition for people with weak immune systems. Potential complications in children include severe diarrhea and seizures. Influenza causes death in thousands of people each year, and the number of people who require hospitalization for the flu is even greater.
Can I protect myself from flu?
Protecting yourself from the flu is important and easy with the influenza vaccine. The vaccine is produced every year to match the current strain of the influenza virus, and delivers the strongest immunity possible against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine will increase your immunity to the flu and greatly reduce your chance of contracting the illness and of suffering any complications from the flu. Furthermore, vaccinating yourself against the flu will help to prevent the spread of the illness to others around you.
What are the modes of delivery available?
Influenza vaccine is available in two forms:
Spray – Live attenuated vaccine – LAIV – It is sprayed into the nostril and contains live but attenuated virus.
Injectable – Killed influenza Vaccine – It is injected with a needle into the body.
How many vaccines do I need?
The viruses for Influenza adapt to the environment and so are changing constantly. Yearly vaccination is thus recommended to match the viruses that are most likely to cause the flu. Your immunity against the flu is fully developed approximately one week after vaccination takes place. Your protection remains strong for approximately one year after vaccination, at which point it is recommended to receive another vaccine.
When should I get vaccinated?
The vaccine should be administered as soon as it becomes available for the current year. The flu season generally runs from October through May, however earlier seasons have been reported in the past. Vaccination at the earliest time of the flu season is recommended, and can provide protection for the entire year, even if it is an early season. If the season has already started and you have not yet received the flu vaccination, receiving the vaccination will still protect you for the remainder of the season. The importance of receiving the flu vaccine cannot be stressed enough—vaccination can help prevent serious disease in yourself and those around you. Getting the vaccination earlier is better, but is still beneficial at any time during the flu season.
Are there any risks of getting the Flu vaccine?
The risks associated with vaccinations are similar to those associated with prescription medications. Rarely people may experience a severe allergic reaction after receiving the flu vaccination. If you notice hives, extreme itching, swelling, or any other concerning symptoms you should contact your doctor for further advice. The risk of an allergic reaction, however, is extremely small, and is further avoided by screening questions that your doctor or vaccination administrator will ask you prior to receiving the vaccine. People with moderate or severe illness should wait to recover before getting vaccinated with the flu vaccine.