A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Flu season is just around the corner; here
are a few things the CDC wants you to know

 

Tomorrow is the first day of fall — and in addition to the shorter days and cooler weather, that means it won’t be long before people start getting sick with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 

(CDC photos)

(CDC photos)

Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat and lungs and can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications. The flu also can cause certain health conditions to become worse, including diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease. Even healthy people can become sick with the flu and experience serious complications.
 

Here are a few things the CDC wants you to know about the flu:
 

What sort of flu season is expected this year?
 

It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.
 

Will the United States have a flu epidemic?
 

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year. This time of year is called “flu season.” In the United States, flu season occurs in the winter; flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May. CDC says the flu season begins when certain key flu indicators (for example, levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), hospitalization and deaths) rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.
 

When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
 

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.
 

What should I do to protect myself from flu this season?
 

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
 

In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine if you have not already gotten vaccinated, 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 flu to others.
 

What should I do if I get sick with the flu?
 

Antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications (such as children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions) and people who are very sick with flu (such as those hospitalized because of flu) should get antiviral drugs. Some 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.
 

feelingsick

Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick but 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. This season, three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs are recommended for use in the United States: oseltamivir, zanamivir and peramivir.
 

What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu?
 

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated (read more here). Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, and their close contacts. Also, if you have a loved one who is at high risk of flu complications and who develops flu symptoms, encourage him or her to get a medical evaluation. He or she might need treatment with influenza antiviral drugs. CDC recommends that people who are at high risk for serious flu complications who get the flu be treated with influenza antiviral drugs as quickly as possible.
 

People who are not at high risk for serious flu complications who get the flu may be treated with influenza antiviral drugs at their doctor’s discretion. Children between 6 months and 8 years of age may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected from flu. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart. Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. If your child does need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected, it is a good idea to begin the vaccination process sooner rather than later.
 

Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.
 

In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your loved ones 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 influenza to others.
 

When should I get vaccinated?
 

CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against flu soon after vaccine becomes available, if possible by October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
 

Doctors and nurses are encouraged to begin vaccinating their patients soon after vaccine becomes available, preferably by October so as not to miss opportunities to vaccinate. Those children aged 6 months through 8 years who need two doses of vaccine should receive the first dose as soon as possible to allow time to get the second dose before the start of flu season. The two doses should be given at least four weeks apart.
 

What are the risks from getting a flu shot?

You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.
 

What kind of vaccines are available in the United States for 2015-2016?
 

A number of different private sector vaccine manufacturers produce flu vaccine for use in the United States. This season both trivalent (three component) and quadrivalent (four component) influenza vaccines will be available. Different routes of administration are available for flu vaccines, including intramuscular, intradermal, jet injector and nasal spray vaccine.
 

How much flu vaccine will be available this season?
 

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on manufacturers. For this season, manufacturers have projected they will provide between 171 to 179 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market. (Projections may change as the season progresses.)
 

When will flu vaccine become available?
 

The timing of vaccine availability depends on when production is completed. If everything goes as indicated by manufacturers, shipments may begin as early as July or August and continue throughout September and October until all of the vaccine is distributed.
 

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, such as a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic and often your school, college health center or work.
 

Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where you can get a flu vaccine.
 

Can I get vaccinated and still get the 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 flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.)
 

‣ 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. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common.
 

‣ Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the 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. 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 tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment