Say boo to the flu!
Flu season update, 2018-19 edition
After last year’s rough flu season, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and healthcare providers are recommending that everyone six months of age and older get their annual flu vaccination early in the fall (by the end of October), before the flu begins spreading in their community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout flu season, even into January or later.
UPDATE on the nasal spray flu vaccine: The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or “LAIV” or FluMist) is again a recommended option for people who are healthy and between the ages of two to 49-years-old. Pregnant women and children under the age of two should not get the nasal vaccine. There is a precaution for people with certain underlying medical conditions. Talk with your healthcare provider about which vaccination is the best option for you.
Come see us to get your flu shot today.
The flu vaccines are stocked at most UW Medicine primary care locations. We encourage you to get a flu shot at one of our UW Medicine clinics:
- For UW Neighborhood Clinic current patients: please schedule your flu shot appointment online.
To see which flu vaccine is available at your UW Neighborhood Clinic, please refer to its website directly for weekly updates. CHECK STATUS
- For new patients, or for other UW Medicine primary care clinic patients: please call 206.520.5000 to make an appointment.
About the flu:
As flu epidemics in the U.S. peak between late November and March, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated in late fall since it takes your body up to two weeks to form the antibodies that protect you. While people of all ages are susceptible to the flu, older adults and people with chronic illnesses such as asthma or diabetes or those with weakened immune systems are at high-risk for getting complications from the flu.
Other insights into keeping this nasty bug at bay this season
DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE
The flu is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets (people with influenza expel the virus up to six feet by breathing, speaking, coughing and sneezing) and by inanimate things like doorknobs and money. If you touch the infected thing and then you touch your eye, nose or lips, you will become infected.
WHY, WINTER, WHY?
Believe it or not, it’s unknown why flu is most prevalent in winter. Recent studies have revealed that the Flu virus thrives and transmits best in cold, dry weather. It has also been speculated that people are indoors more in the winter and that crowding facilitates spread.
SO A FLU SHOT PROTECTS ME FROM THE FLU, RIGHT?
Well, yes. And, no. Flu vaccines are reformulated each year to provide the broadest coverage possible. The virus mutates, new strains emerge, and so you don’t have protection from past infections and immunity decreases over time. If you’ve had a flu shot and subsequently develop flu-like illness, you may have influenza; or you may have an unrelated cold. If it is flu, it will probably be a milder case than it would have been had you not had the vaccine. The vaccine itself does not contain any live organism, and therefore, it can neither give you a cold or the flu, nor does it weaken your immune system.
ARE ANTIVIRAL MEDICATIONS EFFECTIVE?
About 70-90 percent, yes. So why doesn’t everyone just go onto antiviral medications for the duration of the flu season? Cost, potential side effects, limited availability, increased development of drug resistance, and the difficulty of distinguishing between flu and a severe cold – are some reasons why. Prescription antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza can shorten the duration of symptoms by an average of about one day if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms, though.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
Thoroughly washing hands with ordinary soap or using hand sanitizer reduces the transmission of respiratory viruses. Practice respiratory hygiene: cover your cough or sneeze with your upper arm or a tissue. While masks are useful for concealing your identity if you are a superhero or a bank robber, their benefit in reducing your risk of colds and flu is less clear. Masks are good if you have the flu and want to protect others as long as you change them once they become moist. The flu shot is an inexpensive, low-side effect vaccination for a common, serious — sometimes life-threatening— illness. Hence, its benefits outweigh its risks.