August 27th, 2012 | The Blog
The 2012 flu season is lurking in the wings. Getting a flu shot is the clearly the best prevention against contracting the flu.
The flu is a potentially life-threatening illness that affects patients of all ages.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every person over six months of age should receive an annual flu shot. This has been their recommendation since the 2010 season. It is especially important for the high-risk groups, which include pregnant women, young children and seniors, to be immunized.
Children, ages six months to eight years, require two doses of the flu vaccine in order to maximize the immune response and offer the best protection. In this case, the shots are given at least four weeks apart.
Even when the circulating strains of flu remain the same from year to year, it is important to get immunized annually because the vaccine coverage fades over the course of time.
Anyone with an allergy to eggs or anyone who has had a previous allergic reaction to a flu shot should not receive the annual flu vaccine.
Is the Vaccine Always the Same?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the annual flu vaccine formula, based upon the circulating strains of influenza virus.
The 2010 and 2011 flu shot formulas were the same. The 2012-2013 flu shot formula is significantly different from the 2011 season. There are different strains of influenza circulating in the world, other than the U.S. at this time. In early fall, the new strains will begin to emerge in the U.S.
The 2010-2013 formula contains the same H1N1 strain from the preceding two years plus two new strains for which no American has any protection. The strains included in this year’s flu vaccine are:
There is always the possibility that the current vaccine does not cover a circulating strain of the influenza virus. Regardless whether there is an exact match, the flu vaccine can lower the severity of symptoms and possibly prevent serious complications, should a patient contract the flu.
As soon as the 2012-2013 flu vaccine is available, which will be early fall, it is important to get the vaccine in order to build the best immune defense. While the vaccine is available throughout the flu season, it is important to get the flu vaccine before there is a significant community outbreak. In addition to the annual flu vaccine, regular hand-washing is imperative to preventing the spread of the flu.