It's Not Too Late for a Flu Shot
Posted: Jan 2nd, 2017 at 12:00AM
It's that time of year again. Flu season. Influenza spreads rapidly during the winter, but experts advise that it's not too late to get a flu shot so that you can try and avoid a case this year. Getting your regular flu shot greatly reduces your chances of contracting the disease, and it's a minor expense which may be well worth the investment.
The Seasonal Patterns of Influenza
Influenza has a pronounced seasonal pattern that shows in its infection rates. They seem to peak during the winter and experts still haven't been able to determine exactly why this occurs. The effect in temperate regions is quite pronounced, there is a strong spike in new cases of the disease during the winter.
Many of the initial studies into this seasonal pattern seem to have emerged due to lower temperatures, lower indoor humidity, and lower effects of solar radiation. Combined with the fact that people are in cramped quarters more to stay warm and you have the perfect storm of infection spreading quickly.
Interestingly, new data reveals the seasonal pattern seems to also occur in the tropics which have much the same weather year round. The disease remains more active in these areas year round, but there is still a definite "season" during which it is contracted more frequently according to the latest sets of data.
In the tropics, influenza infections seem to be linked in some way to the rainy season, a time of high humidity. This seems to point out that influenza isn't as reliant on lowered humidity as previously thought. Some tropical areas even see greater than normal amounts of activity from the virus throughout the year.
The truth is, despite the pronounced seasonal effect, there has yet to be any conclusive data where one can point a definite finger in order to say, "This is why the flu season occurs."
The facts basically boil down to this: the flu season happens, and during these months the infection rate of influenza is much higher than it is at other times of the year. This means it's imperative to protect yourself as well as possible.
This Year's Virus
The flu mutates from year to year, which is why flu shot formulations must be received on an annual basis. For those living in temperate climates that means getting it just before or during the early stages of the flu season in order to maximize your chances of avoiding the disease.
In fact, the rapid mutation of the flu is one of the major reasons that it is such a rampant disease when it hits. Serious complications can result in some populations, particularly the very young and the very old. These can include pneumonia and in those who are already in dire straits, it can easily prove fatal.
It's important to remember that influenza is something more than just a minor inconvenience to be laughed off for vulnerable members of the population. While the young and healthy might laugh at the idea of undertaking a flu shot each year, it's absolutely essential that those who are particularly vulnerable to complications receive the inoculation.
This year's primary offender seems to be the H3N2 strain of influenza and H1N1 is also infecting people. The vaccine for this year is formulated to take care of these strains in particular and it appears to be just about right.
The CDC is recommending that those who receive the vaccine get the shot, as the nasal spray that has been made more common recently seems to be quite a bit less effective than the injection. It's a bit of an inconvenience, but a bad case of the flu can have you down for weeks and that far outweighs having to wait in a doctor's office for an afternoon in order to receive it.
This year is looking to be fairly typical. Complications from the flu hospitalize around 200,000 people each year and the shot is a good way to avoid having to deal with all of that.
Getting Your Flu Shot
The flu shot is particularly recommended for some of the most at-risk segments of the population. These include the elderly, pregnant women, and those with any kind of disorder that compromises their immune system. Anyone over the age of six months can receive the shot, and it's for the best in order to protect yourself.
Getting your shot early enough in the season is imperative since your body will take a few weeks in order for the antibodies to build up to the level required in order to keep the disease in check.
If you're local to the area, you can easily make an appointment with us and our doctors will discuss things with you and give you the shot.
You'll also want to avoid being in enclosed areas where you'll be in close contact with folks who already have the disease. This can help you avoid it, and if you take this precaution in addition to receiving your shot you'll stand a good chance of making it through the season without having to suffer from the flu at all.
The vaccine itself is administered as an intramuscular shot, generally in the shoulder. Side effects do happen, usually a sore arm and a mild fever for a couple of days will be the worst of it and it's a much better option than being put down with the flu for an extended period of time.
It's not too late, get into our office and receive your flu shot in order to maximize your chances of not getting the flu this year. Whether you're healthy or at risk for serious complications, the flu is no fun and it can put you down for weeks if you're unlucky. That means lost productivity and more chicken soup than most people can reasonably stomach, so do the responsible thing and ensure you're vaccinated this flu season. Our offices can make you an appointment and the procedure can be over in no time.
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