Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, sore throat and headache — these are just a few of the common symptoms of seasonal influenza, also known as the flu. While you may think you can weather the storm, the flu can be a major health concern for you and your family, especially for children and the elderly.
The flu is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by influenza viruses that attack the nose, throat and lungs. Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, flu symptoms vary from mild respiratory illness to severe complications, hospitalization and in some cases death. An average of 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu complications in the U.S. each year. To reduce illness and potential death resulting from the flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages annual vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older.
“Despite strong recommendations for everyone in the U.S. 6 months of age and older to be vaccinated against the flu every year, fewer than half of eligible people did so in the 2014-2015 season. This includes children, the group with the highest incidence during community outbreaks,” said Kim Tran, MS, PharmD, pharmacist, PillPack, Inc. “Even healthy people are at risk — they should be vaccinated to help protect themselves and to prevent transmission to others.”
Due to the variety of factors that can determine a person’s suitability for a vaccine, including age, health and allergies, different flu vaccines are approved for use in different populations of people. In particular, quadrivalent vaccines, which help protect against four strains of the flu, approved for both children and adults aim to broaden flu coverage.
The traditional seasonal influenza vaccine is a trivalent formula consisting of two strains of influenza A viruses and a single strain of influenza B virus. Although there are two very different lineages of B viruses that both circulate during most seasons, experts are limited to choosing only one of the B virus strains for inclusion in the trivalent vaccine. The use of a quadrivalent influenza vaccine may now provide protection against both B lineages, which may provide broader protection against circulating flu viruses. In addition, studies have shown that seasonal flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses have a safety profile similar to vaccines made to protect against three viruses.
Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people with the flu beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Some people can even be infected with the flu and spread the virus to others without having any symptoms. While the best way to help prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year, you should also take everyday precautions against the spread of germs. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and try to avoid close contact with sick people.
You could protect yourself and your family against the inconvenient and potentially life-threatening complications of the flu by simply getting vaccinated. For additional resources regarding what is best suited for you, please visit www.whatsyourfluplan.com.