Don’t wait: Now is the time to get your yearly flu shot!

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The flu season in Idaho can last from October to May, and it 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 illness, 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 babies or other people who are at high risk for complications should also get vaccinated.

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 if you get it now. 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.

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 ones 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 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.

Does the flu vaccine offer protection even if it’s not a perfect match?

People should get a flu vaccine each year because even if it’s not perfect, we know that it will prevent some illness, and more than that, it has been shown to reduce your risk of landing in the hospital or dying. 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. 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 reported flu-related deaths each season since 2009. Last season, from 2018-2019, Idaho recorded 58 flu-related deaths. The season before that, we had 101 deaths reported, which was a record for Idaho. 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.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI News Radio 670. This is a transcript of the segment that aired Oct. 22.) 

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