We’ve been in the height of flu season for a few weeks now.Both Wisconsin and Illinois are at the highest level of activity classification as reported by the CDC.I’ve been hearing a lot of misconceptions tossed around about the flu, more so this year as it has been more severe.Here a few quick flu facts to familiarize yourself with:
The flu vaccine is effective.It is not intended to prevent flu.It is intended to lessen the severity of illness, shorten the duration of illness, lower the complication rate and prevent death from flu and its complications.Every year I hear that the vaccine “is not very effective” because so many people are getting the flu.I also hear that the vaccine “is only 10% effective”.This statistic comes from the ability of the flu vaccine to completely prevent infection is you are exposed to flu.In about 10% of people, it will prevent infection.In the vast majority, it will not.The main purpose of the vaccine is to lessen duration and severity and prevent death.
Most flu is influenza A and B.Most seasons, it is influenza A.This season, it is … surprise surprise … about 90% influenza A.These are in the flu shots and subtypable.
Most flu deaths are in unvaccinated individuals. Getting the vaccine prepares your immune system to recognize the flu or its variations (there are many flu subtypes of A and B) and start an immune response.This shortens the duration, severity and prevents death (see #1).There are still flu deaths in vaccinated individuals however, but it is less common.
While everyone should get the flu vaccine, for these groups of people it is especially important: Infants 6 months and older, babies, toddlers, children, adolescents, people with lung disease (asthma, COPD, emphysema), people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, people who are immune suppressed, anyone taking chronic prednisone or other immunosuppressive drugs, pregnant women at any gestational age, the elderly.These groups are especially vulnerable to flu complications and flu death.
The following people should also get the flu vaccine: any person who works with, volunteers with or lives with someone in #3.Be a good Samaritan.
Tamiflu is indicated for prophylaxis in flu cases for high risk groups.It is not recommended for the general public or healthy adults.
This flu season only, the CDC did update its guidelines expanding the use of Tamiflu beyond the first 48 hours of symptoms to high risk individuals
Its not too late to get a flu vaccine this season.Flu season goes well into April.It does take about 2 weeks post vaccination to have antibodies to provide protection.
Getting the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.It’s not a live vaccine.I am not going to spend any more time on this one but please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions on this.
You can get flu like symptoms after getting the vaccine.You do not have the flu.You can get an immune response for 24 to max 48 hours that feels like a mild flu.You also can of course get the real flu since you have not built immunity for at least 2 weeks after vaccination (see #8), in other words, you can have unfortunate timing.
Even people with allergies to egg- even anaphylactic allergies to egg- can get the flu vaccine.Yes, they’ve studied this.Talk to your allergist if you fall into this category.
There can be serious flu vaccine complications, namely GBS (Guillian Barre Syndrome) – this is a rare complication.It is about one in a million.Myself being on the wrong side of one in a million, I can tell you that if you are the one, it is life-changing.In happier news, a few times a year someone manages to pick the winning lottery numbers so it’s not always a bad thing to be the one in a million.
*** disclaimer: I am in no way interested in non-productive feedback, personal thoughts or feelings as I know there are strong ones out there.This post is intended to clear up misconceptions, not open debates based on what happened to your best friend’s sister’s cousin 10 years ago when they got the flu vaccine… or didn’t get it.Stay healthy this season everyone and be kind to one another!