Flu season has just begun and now is the time for people to get their vaccinations. The vaccine takes approximately two weeks to develop a proper defense to protect against the virus. Elderly and small children are at a higher risk of developing complications after contracting the disease, so it is vital that they receive a vaccination. Here in the United States, we experience a seasonal flu epidemic, often referred to as flu season. During these autumn and winter months the flu is more common and as a result, people are more likely to contract the virus. The flu virus changes every year, as such, it is recommended by the CDC that you get vaccinated every flu season.
“You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins,” stated the CDC on their webpage. “CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout flu season, even into January or later.”
The previous 2017-2018 flu season was particularly rough, with CDC reporting the death toll at around 80,000 last year. Previously the highest death toll for a flu season was at 56,000 deaths during the normal flu season. This would make last year’s flu season the most deadly in over four decades. These deaths included 180 child deaths, setting a new record for child flu deaths outside of a pandemic. This was also the first flu season where the CDC noticed very high severity across various age groups, not just children and the elderly. On their website, the CDC posted the following about the severity of this past flu season.
“People 65 years and older accounted for approximately 58% of reported influenza-associated hospitalizations. Overall hospitalization rates (all ages) during 2017-2018 were the highest ever recorded in this surveillance system, breaking the previously recorded high recorded during 2014-2015; a high severity H3N2-predominant season when CDC estimates that hospitalizations captured through FluSurv-NET translated into a total of 710,000 flu hospitalizations that season.”
Vaccination is a possible step to take for anyone who lives or frequently interacts with children or the elderly. Some children are too young to receive a vaccination and if they contract the virus they face serious complications. They are more susceptible to the virus and often suffer severe symptoms and complications after contracting the virus. Elderly and children who contract the virus have a higher chance of suffering lethal complications than an adult or teenager.
“Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for developing flu complications, and their close contacts,” the CDC said. “Also, if you have a loved one who is at high risk of flu complications and they develop flu symptoms, encourage them to get a medical evaluation for possible treatment with flu antiviral drugs. These drugs work best if given within 48 hours of when symptoms start.”
Most who contract the flu virus suffer only mild symptoms. The CDC strongly recommends that anyone who contracts the virus stay home until they are recovered, and that an infected individual should only leave their home under dire circumstances, such as needing to undergo medical treatment. When an infected person leaves their home and interacts with others they run the risk of infecting someone else. Someone who has contracted the flu can take antiviral drugs prescribed by their doctor. These antiviral drugs can be necessary if a person is severely sick or a high-risk patient. The CDC’s website contains the following regarding the use of antiviral drugs to treat the flu.
“It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high-risk medical condition. Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor this season. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.”
The 2018-2019 flu season is only just beginning and this is the time to be receiving vaccinations. Flu vaccines vary in their effectiveness every year though. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 6-month receives a flu vaccination during the start of flu season, and that getting vaccinated is vital for children and the elderly, but can also help avoid trouble for the average person. Many places such as a local clinic or drugstore will offer flu vaccines at a relatively low cost.
Featured image from the Pan American Health Organization