What You Need to Know About This Year’s Flu Season!
As the 2017-2018 flu season approaches, it’s important to understand how you can protect yourself and your family from the ravages of influenza during flu season.
Which viruses will the 2017-2018 flu season vaccines protect against?
There are three types of flu viruses: A, B, and C and these viruses are constantly evolving. Although type C causes flu, it is much less severe than types A and B which cause the annual influenza epidemics that affect nearly 20% of the U.S. population. Type A and B viruses cause high fevers, coughing, aching, and the runny nose most of us suffer through for 7-10 days.
The flu vaccines within the United States are reviewed annually and updated to match circulating flu viruses during flu season. Although these vaccines cannot protect us from every flu virus, they do protect us from the three or four most common viruses you might be exposed to this flu season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2017-2018 flu season vaccines are recommended to contain:
- Type A – Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- Type A – Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- Type B – Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus
- Type B – Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus
Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first, and best, way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
Can the flu shot cause the flu? Find out here from Dr. Elizabeth Carter about flu season.
If you talk about flu vaccines with other people, you find a variety of opinions about how serious influenza is and the importance of getting a yearly flu vaccine. For many, it’s just the time of year – around Halloween – to get your flu vaccine. Some folks express no fear of influenza with the approach of the German philosopher Nietzsche, “what does not kill me, makes me stronger”. Nietzsche died in 1900 of pneumonia, another vaccine-preventable disease.
One of the key characteristics of influenza is that it is unpredictable.
- The virus changes slightly over time (which is why there is a new vaccine each year), but every so many years the slight changes in the virus add up to make it more contagious or more severe.
- The flu vaccine for each year represents the best guess as to which strains will be most important; sometimes the predicted strains work out to be important for the current year, sometimes not.
- Vaccination can be less effective in the current season but still provide some protection against future influenza strains.
- Less effective means the vaccine may not prevent you from catching the flu, but may still keep your illness much less severe and keep you from worrying those folks who work in the intensive care units.
The influenza vaccination is literally your best “shot” at avoiding the flu this season. It takes a week or two to develop immunity following flu vaccination, so if you are eligible, now is the time to decide on your flu shot.
According to the CDC, a few things are new for the 2017-2018 season:
- The recommendation to not use the nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) was renewed for the 2017-2018 season. Only injectable flu shots are recommended for use again this season.
- Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses (the influenza A(H1N1) component was updated).
- Pregnant women may receive any licensed, recommended, and age-appropriate flu vaccine.
- The age recommendation for “Flulaval Quadrivalent” has been changed from 3 years old and older to 6 months and older to be consistent with FDA-approved labeling.
Your community pharmacist is there to help, and will be happy to talk to you about influenza vaccination. Your primary care provider or pharmacist can help you choose and can administer your vaccination. For many patients, vaccination is free. Take care of yourself this holiday and flu season.