The flu, or influenza, is an infectious disease caused by a virus and it can lead to hospitalization and even death. ‘Flu season’ is a time period when the flu virus circulates at higher levels than normal; in the U.S., flu season can last from October to as late as May.
The best way to prevent getting the flu and spreading it to others is to get the annual flu shot.
Flu vaccination can reduce your risk of flu-associated hospitalization. It can also help prevent hospitalizations for those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
The question becomes who should get the flu vaccine? Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. The flu shot causes your body to develop antibodies to the virus about two weeks after receiving the vaccine. You need to get a new flu shot every year because the flu viruses are always changing and the vaccine has to be updated in order to be effective every year.
The vaccine is made to protect against the three (trivalent) or four (quadrivalent) strains of the flu virus that researchers predict to be most common during that flu season. The immune response that the flu shot gives you also decreases over time, so you must re-vaccinate every year. The vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year.
There is a possibility that you could get the flu despite getting vaccinated, and this depends on whether the viruses in the vaccine are a good ‘match’ to the ones circulating in your community. However, the flu shot can still provide some protection for similar viruses and make your illness milder if you do get sick.
Getting vaccinated also helps protect the people around you by providing something called ‘herd immunity.’ When a high percentage of people in a community are vaccinated, it makes it difficult for the disease to spread because there’s so few people left that it can infect.
By getting the vaccine yourself, you are protecting others who are more vulnerable to the flu, such as babies too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems, and those too ill to receive vaccines (some cancer patients).
It is never too early to get your flu shot and is better to get it before flu season is in full swing. Please don’t wait to call us at Four Corners Pharmacy 518-439-8200 to schedule your appointment.
- Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine [Internet]. 2017 [cited 10 Sept 2017]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
- What is herd immunity? [Internet]. 2017 [cited 10 Sept 2017]. Available from: https://www.vaccinestoday.eu/stories/what-is-herd-immunity/