We are all perpetually in danger of contracting the flu, however the Influenza virus is usually contracted from October to around May, with spikes in January to February. The surest way of shielding your family from a flu infection is get them vaccinated. Each year the flu virus mutates producing new strains, thus it is essential that you get your annual flu shot.
What is Influenza?
Influenza is a virus that infects the respiratory system (your nose down to your lungs). However the illness can affect other organ systems.
Common signs and symptoms are an early onset fever that may be accompanied with chills. The patient may experience headaches and myalgias (body pains), accompanied by fatigue. Other common symptoms are sore throats, coughs and the irritating stuffy nose.
The virus is very infectious, and is transmitted via droplets in the air. The ill individual may cough or sneeze, and then others inhale these droplets. Another means by which the virus spreads is when the sick individual rubs their eyes or nose and then they touch surfaces and objects (fomites), then others touch these fomites and in turn rub their own eyes and noses.
Who Should Get the Vaccine?
Everyone above the age of 6 months should get vaccinated against the flu annually. Thus parents, children, caretakers and anyone living in the house should get vaccinated. When everyone is vaccinated they are less likely to transmit it to the younger, more vulnerable children.
Immunization is particularly crucial for:
- Those children who possess conditions that predispose them to serious flu related complications
- Children whose heritage is either Native American or Alaskan
- The caregivers of children with conditions termed as high-risk, or children below the age of 5 years in particular less than 6 months
- All health care workers
- Women who are expectant, planning for pregnancy, have just delivered a baby, or are breast feeding
What Are The Flu Vaccines?
The flu vaccines come as either inactivated or attenuated. Inactivated vaccines are produced by culturing the Influenza virus in media, then killing it. The virus is then injected intramuscularly. This virus is always trivalent, which means that it has three strains of the Influenza virus.
On the other hand, attenuated viruses are produced by culturing the Influenza virus, but instead of killing it, the virus is weakened. It is administered intranasally and is termed LAIV for Live Attenuated Influenza Virus. The new LAIV is quadrivalent, meaning that it is composed of 4 strains of the Influenza virus.
Vaccines work by prompting the body to mount a defense against the weak or dead Influenza virus. The defense mounted by the body is saved in its immune memory, so that in the future if the body is invaded by similar strains of the Influenza virus it will prevent them from becoming an infection.
Are There any Contraindications for these viruses?
The intramuscular flu vaccine can be given to everyone over the age of 6 months. The intradermal one should only be administered to those aged 18 to 64 years of age. LAIV should only be given to healthy individuals aged 2 to 49. It has been shown to be more efficacious in children, it should however not be given to those who are immune-compromised or have other underlying illnesses.
Now that you know how to prepare for the upcoming flu season get on your feet and march to your nearest health provider for the vaccine. Outlets like Target and Walgreens offer flu shots at very affordable prices, so there is no excuse for not getting vaccinated.