The holiday season is upon us and it will soon be the time for family, festivities, joy, and togetherness. Unfortunately, the winter season has also become the time when dreaded influenza or the flu hits countless families. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has forecasted that the flu activity will peak in December and hence families need to start taking their flu shots and other adequate precautions.
A contagious disease, the flu is a common viral infection that can even turn deadly if not treated on time. Fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, running noses, headaches, and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms of the flu.
Flu cases are rising and there are bound to be some misconceptions and confusion regarding it. Here are some of the important things you should keep in mind during this flu season.
What should you know about the latest flu season?
In the latest report by the CDC, it has been stated that seasonal influenza activity in the United States has been increasing for five weeks and continues to elevate. They have reported that influenza B/Victoria viruses are the leading cause of this increased activity. This is uncommon for this time of year. A/H1N1 viruses are the next most common. Please do remember that it isn’t too late to get your flu vaccination.
What have we learned from last year’s flu season?
Each flu season is unique from the other. The 2018-19 flu season is considered the longest one in a decade. Last season, a majority of the people were infected with the flu that had a strain called the H1N1. Curiously, though, the dominant flu strain changed later into the season. Large numbers of people were later infected with the flu having the H3N2 strain. The cases were severe and created a second wave of flu infections. Last year’s vaccine was not developed to protect against H3N2 and this created complications.
The two dominant strains that prolonged the flu season last year have made doctors and experts more guarded. Research and measures have been understandably taken to prevent another double outbreak like that this year.
Will this year’s vaccine be able to match against the flu virus?
The two types of flu viruses – A and B – have several strains that infect humans. The strains that are to be included in the vaccine are decided months beforehand by experts. This is done so that flu shots can be prepared for the flu season.
According to CDC’s Doctor Scott Epperson, this year’s vaccine will provide protection against the H1N1 and H3N2 strains that are in circulation. These constituent elements have been updated from 2018’s vaccine which will enable them to adapt better to the strains that have been found.
The vaccine, reportedly, is also a good match to the two B strains that have been found so far.
Who are the most susceptible to the flu?
Children, elderly people, pregnant women, people with a persistent medical condition and health care workers are particularly susceptible to getting the flu. The CDC observes that those having health complexities like bronchitis, pneumonia and even an ear infection are also vulnerable to the flu.
Children younger than 2 are particularly susceptible so it is important to be extra cautious with them during flu season. Children up to 6 months and less are vulnerable to the complications of the infection but are too young to get vaccinated. In this case, it would be best to get everyone who comes in contact with the baby vaccinated.
Anyone who has a persistent medical condition like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity or a vulnerable immune system are also at high risk for getting the flu.
What are quadrivalent vaccines and why do you need to know about them?
While there are plenty of influenza vaccines out there, the quadrivalents are considered to be the best today.
So what are quadrivalent vaccines?
Basically, the quadrivalent vaccines comprise of two inactivated type A viruses and two inactivated type B viruses. They thus offer the best kind of learning apparatus for your immune system. The type A influenza is more dangerous as it can lead to pandemics and mostly affects senior adults and children. It mainly prevails early in the flu season. The type B influenza is comparatively milder and strikes later in the flu season.
Is one particular vaccine better than the other?
Your doctor can best answer this question as different vaccines are authorized for different age groups. The quadrivalent vaccine provides protection against the two A strains and the two B strains. It is being reported that close to 80% of this year’s supply of vaccines will be the quadrivalent ones.
How can I reduce my chances of getting affected by the flu apart from getting vaccinated?
There are some basic routine actions you can follow to lessen your chances of getting the flu this season.
• Avoiding contact with people who are ill or who have been affected is, of course, obvious.
• Maintaining strict hygiene is of utmost importance as well. Washing your hands regularly and covering your face as you cough is crucial in this regard.
• Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes.
• Disinfect areas around you – your work desk, your bathroom, your bed, and even your kitchen.
• Keep yourself fit – eat healthily, stay hydrated, be active and get proper sleep.
What kinds of flu shots are available this season?
There are many flu shots available for the 2019-20 season.
• Regular dose flu shots are generally given with a needle.
• High-dose shots for people aged 65 and older.
• Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine. Also known as the nasal spray flu vaccine. This is not for pregnant women and those with a vulnerable immune system.
• Shots made with adjuvant. An adjuvant is a substance that is co-injected with antigen to enhance the immune response for people aged 65 and older.
• Cell-Based Flu Shots. Most influenza vaccines are created by growing influenza viruses in eggs. These shots do not include eggs and can be taken by people who have allergies.
It is important to be prepared to face the flu season. It is a dangerous disease that can turn deadly. Hence, being aware of exactly what it constitutes will help you protect yourself and your family better. Be prepared. Be safe.
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