Question: I heard even though the flu vaccine missed the target this year it is still a good idea to get one because it stays in your system and could work for strains not covered in next year’s vaccine. Is that true?
Here’s my response:
The flu vaccine was less than 50% effective this year. And that happens. Sometimes those in charge of making the vaccines guess the wrong strains. It’s just not possible to know with certainty what’s going to circulate in the coming flu season. Okay, so they missed this year, but if you get vaccinated, there’s still potential that you may be infected with one of the strains covered in the vaccine, be protected, and never get sick. According to the CDC, analysis of the circulating flu viruses for this season indicate that most H3N2 viruses showing up in sick people are different from the H3N2 strain in the vaccine. But, there is evidence that the vaccine will work well for about 1/3 of the H3N2 strains circulating, and should offer good protection against the H1N1 and influenza B viruses. Continue reading →
It’s flu season again. And you have a decision to make. Should you get the flu vaccine this year?
Before you get started educating yourself on the influenza vaccine (and I applaud you for doing so), you may want to read the previous two articles in this flu education series:
So many people are confused about what influenza really is because the word “flu” is often misused and confused for various other sicknesses going on in the body. To familiarize yourself with the true flu symptoms and to understand why you should get vaccinated, please read: What is influenza, “the flu?”
Understanding a little more about how the influenza virus is constructed and how it mutates is also important in grasping why we all need to get the flu shot every year. I think you’ll be interested in reading more about the virus that causes the flu and learning: Why do we keep getting the flu over and over again?
Now that you’ve become flu savvy and have decided you are ready to make the choice to look into getting the vaccine, it’s important to know all you can before deciding which vaccine may be best for you and your loved ones. Continue reading →
Viruses are very tiny particles full of proteins and genetic material. And they have a job to do: infect our bodies/cells and make lots and lots of copies of themselves. The influenza virus in particular targets our lungs, nose, and throat. Then, it invades our cells, sets up shop, and goes to town making millions of copies of itself.
Soon millions of viral clones are attacking the body, leaving you feeling achy, tired, and just plain sick. But, after a while our bodies figure out they are under attack and the immune system runs to the rescue. Antibodies are created and the virus is banished, leaving the immune system with the memory to be able to attack it should it ever enter the body again.
But, the influenza virus is different from a lot of viruses in that it mutates and changes over the years, making it unrecognizable to our immune systems. Therefore, the virus can infect your body many times and leave you feeling sick over and over and over again.
So what’s going on here that’s different from other viruses?
Flu season is upon us here in the United States, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. I’m very passionate about flu education and information, and that’s why I’m breaking down everything you need to know about the flu, the influenza virus, and the flu vaccines into three different posts over the next few weeks.
Here, I want to focus on what the “flu” actually is, because I think the word “flu” is very misused in the United States. I often hear or overhear people saying something along the lines of, “I was throwing up all night, I must have the flu.” While the flu can cause vomiting and diarrhea, more often in children than adults, the true flu is actually a respiratory illness coupled with muscle aches, extreme tiredness, and sometimes a fever. Adults with bouts of vomiting and not the above mentioned common flu symptoms often have some other sort of stomach virus, possibly food poisoning, or something else.
The flu is also often confused with the common cold. Because both the cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses, sometimes it’s hard to tell what you have come down with. But, the flu tends to be a bit worse than a normal cold due to a fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and a more intense dry cough. The typical cold usually results in a runny/stuffy nose and does not usually lead to serious complications, whereas the flu can lead to complications, life-threatening conditions, and even death.