Flu season is almost here and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend getting your annual flu shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a variety of viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.
An annual flu shot is needed because flu viruses are constantly changing, according to Mercille Locke, R.N., infection prevention program manager at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. Also, the protection offered by a flu vaccine declines over time, which is why annual vaccinations are important.
Each year, laboratories around the world collect flu viruses to determine what strains will be most active during the upcoming flu season. From this information three virus strains are selected for the flu vaccine that is offered in the fall. The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May.
The CDC advises everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. It is especially important that certain people get vaccinated, including pregnant women, people age 50 and older or younger than 5, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, and people who live in or work in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
It takes about two weeks for your body to build antibodies after you receive the shot. During that time you may still get the flu. Whether you get your vaccination early or late in the flu season, you will be protected for the entire year.
Talk to your physician about receiving this year’s flu vaccination. More information can be found at NorthBay.org.