Will the flu shot protect me this year?
You’ve probably read the news by now that the influenza virus strains in this year’s vaccine don’t exactly match the strain of the virus floating around across the nation. What does this mean exactly? Dr. Melinda Einfalt an internal medicine physician at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., explains.
“Every year scientists predict what flu strains will be active in the months ahead and those are the flu strains chosen to put into the vaccine. While certain years they predict the exact strain of the flu virus making the vaccine about 60 percent effective, there are years the virus changes as it is passed from one person to the next and that is what has happened this year. This year the vaccine is estimated to be about 40 percent effective.”
According to a health advisory from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses. Though reduced, this cross-protection might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. In addition, vaccination will offer protection against circulating influenza strains that have not undergone significant antigenic drift from the vaccine viruses (such as influenza A (H1N1) and B viruses).”
“I encourage my patients to get the vaccine if they haven’t yet since there is still some protection and if they do get the flu after receiving the vaccine it most likely won’t be as severe,” says Dr. Einfalt. “Really everyone should get the vaccine but the priority populations are the very young, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma or heart problems. The complications of the flu for these patients could be very severe.”
The CDC’s Tips for Prevention are:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
“My overall message to patients is not to focus so much on the reports of the vaccine not matching this year’s flu virus rather focus on prevention and staying healthy. If you haven’t already received the flu shot, it really is not too late to still get it,” concludes Dr. Einfalt. “The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to get its maximum effectiveness, but it does start imparting some benefit sooner.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.