As you may have heard, the last flu season was particularly severe, resulting in more than 80,000 deaths in the nation and 101 deaths in Idaho. The flu season here can last from October to May, and typically peaks in January or February. Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious infection, even for otherwise healthy people.
Let’s start with the basics: Who should get the vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine every year. But it’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for very young babies or people who are at high risk for developing complications should also get vaccinated.
Is the nasal mist available this year?
The nasal mist is available this year, but with limited availability. If you can’t find it, don’t wait for it. Get the vaccine that is available so you can protect yourself and your loved ones as soon as possible.
How long does protection from the flu vaccine last?
It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine to be fully protected, but it will last throughout the season. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk for influenza, but it doesn’t eliminate it. While your body is building immunity, you could still get sick if you are exposed to the virus. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, you can also wash your hands often to avoid infection, and if you do feel sick, stay home to avoid infecting others.
Do experts say the vaccine will be a good match this year?
Experts make an educated guess to update flu vaccines before the start of each season based on the influenza viruses that were circulating in the U.S. last season and which influenza viruses are making people sick in other parts of the world. Flu vaccine effectiveness is difficult to predict so early in the season because we don’t know which viruses will be circulating in the U.S. until the influenza season is already well under way. To account for this, the flu vaccine covers 3 or 4 of the most common flu viruses that are expected to be circulating this season.
If it’s so difficult to tell how much protection the vaccine will offer, why should people get it?
People should get a flu vaccine each year because even if it’s not perfect, we know that each year it will prevent some illness, and more than that, it prevents serious complications and even death. It’s the same idea with seat belts. We wear seat belts in our vehicles knowing they may not prevent all injuries in an accident, but that they do reduce our overall risk of serious injury or death. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. And thousands of people die from the flu each year, with the total number and severity of the season largely dependent on the viruses that are circulating. Every flu season is unique, and flu viruses affect different people in different ways depending on their age and overall health. This is why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get the vaccine every year.
How many people die from flu-related complications in Idaho?
Idaho has averaged 25 flu-related deaths each season since 2009. Last season, from 2017-2018, Idaho recorded a record number of flu-related deaths, totaling 101. The season before that, we had another record, with 72 deaths. That’s a good indication of how unpredictable each flu season can be. It also highlights how dangerous flu is, and why getting the annual vaccine before the end of October is so important.
A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on Tuesdays at KBOI 670 AM in Boise; this is a transcript of the Oct. 9, 2018 program.
- Health and Welfare: http://flu.idaho.gov
- CDC info on flu: flu.gov
- Selecting viruses for the seasonal influenza vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/vaccine-selection.htm
- How influenza vaccines are made: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/how-fluvaccine-made.htm
- Key facts about seasonal flu vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm