What is Influenza?
Influenza, better known as the flu, is a viral infection that can cause various symptoms, including fevers, sore throats, headaches, and fatigue. The virus is spread in a variety of ways however its most commonly through contact between individuals through sneezing and coughing . Between the months of October and May is the period of time in which most healthcare professionals consider flu season in the United States. The CDC recommends that getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent being infected. Anyone the age of 6 months and older should get the flu vaccination every year aside from those with rare allergic reactions to the vaccine.
So how effective is the flu vaccination?
Based on the data collected, the vaccination ranges around 50% effectiveness in the general population. Aside from the prevention of the flu, there are other benefits as well. This includes helping to reduce the severity of the illness in the case that you do get infected with the flu and protecting pregnant women as well as their infants from the flu in the first months of life.
Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?
Influenza is a virus that is constantly mutating and changing. As a result, the vaccine you received the year before may not protect you from the new strains. Vaccines work as it helps your immune system create antibodies against the virus but over time these antibody levels decline which is why a new shot annually is needed to help protect you.
- Soreness, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site
Individuals with chronic health conditions are also at higher risk for severe flu-related complications which may result in hospitalization, disability, and death. It is highly recommended for those with the following conditions receive the vaccination.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Heart disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Brain or nervous system complication
- Kidney or liver disease
- Obesity(40 BMI or higher)
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated annually. However, there are ways to further prevent the spread of infection. These include washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizers, avoiding touching your mouth nose, and eyes, avoiding close contact, and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces.
Alvin Weng, PharmD 2023 Candidate