The flu season that was…was deadly – Plan to get your flu shot this fall

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Idaho has reported 101 flu-related deaths this season, making it the deadliest flu season in Idaho in several decades. Our state typically sees an average of 22 flu-related deaths each season, and the season lasts from October through May each year. Now that this season is over, I would like to encourage you to plan now for getting your annual flu vaccine in the fall. Public health officials in Idaho would love to see an increase in the 40-50 percent of Americans who get the flu vaccine each year. 

But the flu vaccine doesn’t offer 100 percent protection – why is the vaccine the best way to avoid the flu?

Each year, an average of more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications, and this season saw more than 710,000 people hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to 56,000 people die each year from influenza-related illness. Flu viruses can affect different people in different ways depending on their age and overall health. We recommend flu vaccine each year for everyone ages 6 months and older because it prevents illness, and it also prevents serious illness. Even if it doesn’t offer complete protection, it could lessen the severity of illness if you do get the flu.

Do you have to get it every year?

Yes, because immunity decreases over time, and because the viruses in your community are always changing. Flu infects anywhere from 5-20 percent of the population every year.

Will the next flu vaccine will be a good match for the circulating viruses next season?

Flu is unpredictable, so it’s impossible to say for sure. I can tell you that experts have evaluated the influenza viruses making people sick in other parts of the world, and they have already chosen the strains for the next vaccine so it can be produced in time for the next season.

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Is it possible to get the flu from a vaccine? 

No, it’s not possible. Flu vaccine contains dead virus that is not capable of making you sick. If you wait to get the vaccine until people start getting sick, then you run a higher risk of getting the flu. That’s why we encourage people to get the vaccine in September or October, before the season really gets going.

What about those people who get the vaccine, and then they get the flu? What’s going on there?

Vaccine protection is not immediate — it takes a couple of weeks after getting vaccinated before the full protection kicks in. You could also become infected with a strain of flu virus that isn’t covered by the vaccine. The vaccine reduces your risk for illness; it doesn’t eliminate it. If you have concerns about the flu vaccine, you should discuss those with your medical provider, but your best protection against this serious illness is an annual vaccine.

A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on KBOI Newsradio 760; this is a transcript from June 5, 2018.

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