House Call: Should you get the flu shot or not?
The flu is caused by the influenza virus, either a or b type, and outbreaks occur every year in the fall and winter. It can cause fever, body aches, headache, cough, runny nose and generalized weakness. It is spread by respiratory droplets that contain the virus when someone sneezes or coughs.
If you are exposed to the virus, the incubation period is between 1-4 days and you are then contagious for up to 5-7 days, if you are an otherwise healthy person. Symptoms typically will go away within 5-7 days, but you can have persistent fatigue for a few weeks. There can be complications from the flu such as pneumonia, myositis, and nervous system and heart problems.
The influenza virus mutates every year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization monitor influenza breakouts around the world in order to predict what should be in the annual vaccine.
The vaccine has been shown to prevent the flu in 56-67 percent of those who receive it. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine, but you may have a day or two of low grade fever and malaise as you react to the vaccine. In the U.S., the flu season begins in October, peaks in February and ends in April. You should get your vaccine as soon as it becomes available, usually in early October.
There are two types of vaccines: an inactivated vaccine given as a shot in the skin or muscle and the live-attenuated vaccine, which is given in an intranasal mist. In 2010, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that everyone aged 6 months and older receive the vaccine. This is different than in the past, when it was suggested that only high-risk patients and those in contact with them should get the vaccine, including health care workers.
Which vaccine should you get? Here is a list of recommendations:
• Healthy adults up to 49 who are not pregnant can receive the inactivated or live-attenuated.
• For those 50 and older and those who have poor immune systems, chronic heart or lung disease, diabetes, pregnant, or an egg allergy, get vaccinated with the inactivated preparation.
• Adults from 18 to 64 can also receive the intradermal (shot administered within the skin) inactivated vaccine.
• Those 65 and older can be vaccinated with the intramuscular high-dose inactivated vaccine.
• Anyone with an egg allergy should be sure to tell their health care provider before getting the flu shot to make sure the vaccine was not produced in eggs.
Don’t let the flu get you or your family down this winter. Call your health care provider to find out when the vaccine will be available.
Dr. Laurie Marbas is a family physician at Grand River Hospital and Medical Center in Rifle.
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