Flu season is here. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department offers the following advice on avoding the bug:
Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on the virus and on their body’s ability to fight infection. Some flu seasons are worse than others, and there is no way to predict how severe the flu season will be.
Each year, a new flu vaccine is made from the three viruses that are expected to be present during the season. Two of the three viruses have changed from last season, but the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 virus antigen remains in the 2012-2013 vacccine. (An antigen is the substance that your body recognizes and uses to form protective antibodies.)
Here are some common questions and answers about flu:
Who should get the flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over age 6 months get the flu vaccine, with important exceptions. People with severe allegy to egg, people who have had a serious reaction to a flu shot in the past, and people who have had a very rare nervous system condition called Guillian-Barre syndrome should not get the flu vaccine.
• If you got a flu shot last year, do you need one again this year? And when?
Yes, you need a flu shot every year. You should get vaccinated as soon as flu vaccine becomes available, but there’s still a health benefit in getting a flu shot at any time during the flu season. In the Pacific Northwest, flu activity is usually at its highest level in January or February, and sometimes later. During the 2011-2012 season, the Health Department saw very little flu activity until March and April.
• Do children need more than one dose of flu vaccine per year?
In general, children under age 9 need two doses of flu vaccine at least four weeks apart during the first year they receive the vaccination. This season, it is recommended that children under age 9 get two flu vaccine doses if they have not received at least two seasonal flu vaccines since July 2010. This is to ensure that young children receive enough of the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 vaccine to offer the best protection.
• Are there side effects to the vaccine?
Yes, but most people usually do not have any side-effects. When they do happen, they are usually mild. The most common side-effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot is given. The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu.
• How effective is the flu vaccine?
The effectiveness depends on the match between the vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. If there is a good match, the flu vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in healthy adults. Flu vaccine is generally somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications from the flu.
• What are the different types of flu vaccine?
Currently, two types of flu vaccine exist.
The flu shot (also called inactivated flu vaccine) should be given to children 6 months to 2 years old, people age 50 years and older, pregnant women, and anyone with any health problems or chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma
Nasal spray vaccine (also called live-attenuated influenza vaccine) is for healthy children and non-pregnant adults between the ages of 2 and 49 years old. Children and adults with any chronic conditions, including asthma and diabetes, should not receive the nasal spray vaccine