Fall and all the wonderful things that come with it, like delicious apple cider and pumpkin spiced everything, is finally here and as Americans get over one of the hottest summers on record, the fall brings with it a whole new set of worries. Influenza season is here, or as it is more commonly known — flu season. However, influenza is not be confused with the common cold or the year round “flu” that plagues us all. Influenza can be, and has been, deadly.
Last year there was a record-breaking amount of infections and deaths related to influenza and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is hoping to do better this year with a new formula. This new formula covers four instead of the typical three strains usually covered in the previous vaccines. In 2014, there was a radical mutation from the typical H3N2 influenza A strain which came as a surprise early on in the season that the 2014 vaccine had not been prepared to defend against it.
The CDC recommends that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as possible, since it takes about two weeks for the body to build up the necessary immunity to the prevalent strains. The shot given is not of a live virus but is instead deactivated and as such is not giving anyone the flu. There are some minor side effects that may be associated with the shot such as a low grade fever or aches, soreness, and redness or swelling at the injection site. These typically don’t last longer than two days and are not common at all.
Each year a new batch of flu shots come out that have been tweaked to provide immunization against four of the most prevalent strains of the flu from the past. The vaccine does not, however, stay in the system indefinitely and this is why it is important to take the shot annually. The CDC recommends that all persons ages six months and older get vaccinated and the recommendation is worldwide, as influenza can spread and very quickly too. Many states give out the vaccine for free and most health insurance plans also give full coverage for the shot. Delaware Online has a list on their website showing where and when the vaccine will be distributed by Delaware Division of Public Health.
The shot is available from August until the end of influenza season in May and it is never too late to get the shot. The CDC site warns that peak season is between December and February. Another important thing to note is that getting the flu during a specific period is not like getting chicken pox, you can get it again but maybe a different strain this time and should still receive the flu shot. In fact even astronauts are getting their shots, even while in space.
Health professionals ask that persons bear in mind that while the flu can be spread by coughing, sneezing, and even talking, enclosed spaces and some surfaces can still contain traces of the virus up to days later. In fact, having a hand that has touched any contaminated surface and then come into contact with the face is the most common way to spread the flu virus. This is one of the reasons it is always stressed that hands be washed properly with soap and water or be cleansed with any alcohol-based cleanser.
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