The Flu Vaccine: 2016-2017 Facts

Your best bet:
It’s not perfect, but the flu vaccine is the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting the flu. And it’s important – very important – because getting the flu can be much more serious than missing a few days or school or work. It is estimated that over 200,000 people ages 18 and older are hospitalized from the influenza every year, and each year thousands of people die from the flu epidemic.

Do it for yourself, do it for others:
If you contract influenza, you will be sick – very sick. Worse yet, you can infect those around you, some of whom may be at high risk of hospitalization and death from influenza. So, it’s up to you to help protect those you love by immunizing yourself so you don’t pass the virus to them.

The Safety Zone:
Influenza is very contagious. Respiratory droplets carry the influenza virus, which can travel up to six feet and still be infectious. The virus can live on door nobs, phones, shopping carts, gym equipment, and other public objects. Additionally, the virus is sneaky – a person can be infectious to others one day before even exhibiting symptoms. Additionally, an infected person can continue to pass the virus to others for 5-7 days after the first symptoms. Children can pass the virus to others for more than 7 days after the onset of symptoms.

Am I high risk?
Everyone is at risk, but the highest risk groups include children less than 5 years old, but children less than 2 years old are even at higher risk. Adults greater than 65 are also a high risk group. People who have an underlying cardiac or pulmonary issues such as congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, emphysema, and asthma are at particularly high risk, as these issues can acutely and rapidly worsen, requiring hospitalization. Primary influenza pneumonia can be extremely severe, and secondary bacterial pneumonia can also develop following a primary influenza infection, worsening the clinical picture.

Having other chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, liver, kidney, or neurological issues (stroke, epilepsy, developmental disorders) as well as immunocompromised conditions such as cancer, also places a person in the high risk group.

Where you work and live can also qualify you as a high-risk person. Healthcare providers, educators, frequent travelers, and residents of long-term facilities are at higher risk than the general population.

What’s new with the Flu Vaccine this year?
Allergic to eggs? If so, you will be happy to hear that this year, the CDC considers it safe for you to receive any of the flu vaccines that is age-appropriate for you. (although the egg-free vaccine is still available for ages 18 and older). Additionally, you don’t need to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine, as in the past. However, if your allergy is severe, you should be given the vaccine in a medical facility with an on-site doctor who can recognize and treat severe allergic symptoms.

Needle phobic? Unfortunately, the nasal flu vaccine (Flutist) is not recommended this year because it is not considered effective enough in preventing the flu.

Your options:
Trivalent flu vaccine: This year includes the trivalent flu vaccine, which includes protection against Influenza A (H1N1 strain), Influenza A (Hong Kong strain), and Influenza B (Brisbane strain).

Quadrivalent flu vaccine: In addition to the strains in Trivalent, the quad also protects a fourth strain, Influenza B (Phuket strain).

The high-dose trivalent flu vaccine: Initially available in 2009, the high-dose trivalent flu vaccine is approved for those above the age of 65. This vaccine contains four times the amount of antigens, which makes a more efficacious vaccine. Studies have shown that elderly patients who receive the high-dose vaccine developed 24% fewer influenza infections as those in the same age group who received the regular trivalent vaccine.

 

Article written by Stacey Walker Hein, MD
Dr. Stacey Hein is an Internal Medicine physician in Private Practice in Los Gatos, California
Information gathered from the Center for Disease Control.