How do you prevent the flu? How do you recognize the flu? What do you do when you catch the flu? Here are some fast facts and tips!
No one wants to be sick over the holidays. It’s not too late–get your shot NOW for protection by mid-December!
Every year there’s a new flu shot. What’s going on with all these different “strains,” and what does it all mean?
There are four different types of influenza: A, B, C, and D. Influenza D is found in cattle and influenza C causes a mild respiratory infection. That leaves A and B. Both A and B types are included in the flu shot every year. In the quadrivalent shot (four viruses) there are two A and two B strains. In the trivalent shot (three viruses) there are two A’s and one B.
The B type influenza isn’t divided into subtypes, but the A influenza type is. When you hear about type A, you often hear it associated with two letters: H and N. The seasonal flu vaccine has two subtypes of influenza A: H1N1 and H3N2. These are the two most common subtypes that infect humans.
The H stands for hemagglutinin (HA) and the N stands for neuraminidase (NA). These are two proteins on the surface of the flu virus. There are 18 different HA proteins and 11 different N proteins, so you can imagine all the possibilities of combinations of H’s and N’s you can have.
Not many viruses look like the ball-and-stick virus you often see pictured (like the emoji on your phone). The flu, however, does. That’s because of the HA and NA proteins on its surface. My daughter loves drawing this virus, as you can see from the photo!
The problem with the flu virus is that it can easily mutate. The mutations in the H’s and N’s are what we call “strains”. The strains that circulate are what scientists try to predict for the flu vaccine each year. For example, one of the influenza A strains, the H1N1 strain, in the vaccine this year is the H1N1 A/Brisbane/02/2018-like virus.
Scientists take into consideration the strains circulating in the Southern Hemisphere over their last winter, as well as what circulated in the Northern Hemisphere over our previous winter when deciding on this year’s flu vaccine strains.
That’s why you need a new flu vaccine every year.
You may argue that the scientists sometimes guess the circulating strains wrong and that the flu shot is pointless. Although the circulating strains aren’t always spot-on, because they tend to be similar to what’s circulating, the flu vaccine will still offer at least some protection. Even if you get the flu and have had the vaccine, there’s a good chance that the vaccine has helped shorten the amount of time you were sick, as well as how bad you were sick.
There’s no reason not even to give yourself some protection if you can.
We have other forms of influenza A that don’t cause large outbreaks and are not in the annual flu vaccine.
There are times when an animal flu, such as the swine or avian flu, jumps into the human population. This type of flu, although not easily spread from person to person, is particularly deadly in those infected. For example, the avian flu (H5N1) in 1997 killed around 60% of those infected.
The goal is a universal flu vaccine–one that offers protection for all A and B types. It may be on the horizon. For now, do your best to protect yourself, your family, and your community by getting vaccinated.
I’ve said in the past that research is showing the time for the best immunity to the flu with the flu shot would be to get it in mid-November. The CDC always recommends you get it before the end of October.
This year the flu is showing up early, so it would be best to get it early. As in NOW.
I got both of my children vaccinated two days ago.
The picture shows Stevie getting his shot. He was worried about it but we talked about the importance of the shot the entire drive to the doctor. After getting it he said it barely hurt and that he’d like another, please! (I’m serious!)
It takes two weeks for your body to make immunity to the shot so should you get it now, you will be protected by Halloween.
Here are some places to get a FREE or LOW-COST Shot.
Please note that even if the flu strains that circulate for the year don’t exactly match what’s provided in the shot, they still offer some protection. It may lessen the severity and duration of the flu should you get it. That means it may hit you for a few days versus a few weeks.
I think yes.
Lots of stores pay YOU to get a free flu shot when you use your insurance at their store! Here’s where:
* Publix gives a $10 gift card to their store. But of course, this store is only found in the south.
* CVS gives a $5 coupon.
* Target offers a $5 coupon, also.
* Albertsons gives a 10% off your grocery purchase and they have pharmacy locations in several other stores: Safeway, Vons, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Pavilions, Star Market, and Carrs stores.
* Giant Foods gives out a pretty great coupon book good at their store.
* Kroger offers fuel points.
* Giant Eagle gives out a $5 gift card.
* Rite Aid offers 30% off.
* Walgreens gives you $5 off $15, good on the day you get the shot. They also donate 23 cents to the United Nations Foundation when you get the shot—hey, it adds up and you can feel pretty good about doing it.
* Sam’s Club offers a $30 membership when you get the shot there.
With insurance, it’s likely the shot will be free. So, this is great incentive to get protected AND be rewarded for it!
I’ve said in the past that the beginning of November may be the best time to get the shot as it will give you the best protection during peak flu season, but this may not be the case for THIS YEAR (2019). The flu season is hitting early and the CDC recommends you get it this October.
Hospitals are already getting hospitalizations for people with extreme complications from the flu. It’s best you protect yourself and your family from the flu!!