Summary: What can we expect for the 2013/2014 flu season? What’s new? How are the flu strains chosen? What are the symptoms? How can you prevent the flu? What groups at the highest risk?
The flu season is rapidly approaching. Here is what you need to know to prepare for this year.
CDC defines the flu as: “Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.”
1. When is the flu season and when will flu shots will be available?
- The majority of flu cases occur between October and May with the peak generally in January/February.
- Flu shots should be available beginning in October – the actual date will vary by location.
2. How are flu strains chosen each year?
The World Health Organization studies patterns and trends in order to forecast which form of the virus is likely to be the most severe in the upcoming flu season. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines which strains will be most applicable to the US for the upcoming flu season. Each year the flu season can vary by timing, severity, strains, and length of season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chooses the 3 or 4 main strains each year to be included in the flu vaccinations.
3. What flu vaccination options are available?
- Trivalent (3 components) – can be used for individuals over 6 months of age
- Quadrivalent (4 components) – contains an additional strain and is predicted to be more effective than the traditional trivalent
- Nasal spray – Flumist – especially good for children – pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray
- Intradermal – Fluzone – goes into the skin and uses a very thin needle – great for those who hate needles
- Recombinant –Flubock – offered for the first time this year – doesn’t contain eggs so can be used for those who have egg allergies – approved for ages 18-49
This year, for the first time all of the vaccine types will be quadrivalent except for the traditional trivalent. The Trivalent will contain (1) Influenza A H1N1, (2) Influenza A H3N2, and (3) Influenza B. The Quadrivalent will contain an additional Influenza B virus.
4. Which groups are most at risk for the flu?
- Children 6 months to 59 months of age
- All individuals 50 or older
- Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, neurological, hematologic, ore metabolic disorders
- Persons who have immunosuppression
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season
- Children and adolescents (6 months to 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection
- Residents of nursing homes or other long term facilities
- American Indian/Alaskan Natives
- Persons who are morbidly obese
- Health care personnel
5. What are the most common symptoms?
- Fever and/or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Extreme fatigue
6. How the flu is spread?
- Droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby
- May also get flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes
7. How can the flu be prevented?
- Get vaccinated
- Avoid contact with those who have the flu
- Wash hands constantly
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Avoid contact with others if you have the flu to avoid spreading
- Practice good health habits
Flu vaccinations should be available starting in October. The CDC recommends vaccinations as early in the season as possible as it takes a bit of time before the vaccination becomes effective. There are different types of vaccinations to meet the needs of the majority of the population. Previously, those who had egg allergies weren’t able to receive flu vaccinations. This year, an option has been added to accommodate this population. Previously, some individuals had opted not to have the vaccination for fear of shots. Now there is an option available that is entered just under the skin. Additionally, an extra strain has been added to the majority of the vaccinations beginning this year. This allows vaccination for an additional strain which should provide even more effectiveness in combatting the flu.
Be on the lookout for available of flu vaccinations in your local area over the next couple of weeks and be sure you are protected! For more information, please visit the CDC website.
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