Who ought to get the flu vaccine and why? Our medical analyst explains
Welcome to this yr’s flu season.
In response to reviews, this yr’s flu pressure has already begun to unfold throughout the US new information from the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. This fall, there have been at the very least 880,000 instances of the flu, almost 7,000 hospitalizations and, sadly, 360 flu-related deaths, together with one youngster demise. There hasn’t been one since 2009, through the top of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic so many flu instances so early in season.
Regardless of these numbers, many individuals surprise if the flu is basically such a severe sickness. What’s the advantage of the vaccine, particularly if some folks can get the flu regardless of being vaccinated? Are you able to get the flu from the vaccine? In case you get the Covid vaccine, do you continue to want the flu vaccine?
To assist reply these questions and extra, I spoke with CNN medical analyst Leana Wen, MD, an emergency doctor, public well being skilled and professor of well being coverage and administration on the George Washington Institute College of Public Well being. She can be an creator “Strains of Life: A Physician’s Journey within the Struggle for Public Well being.”
CNN: Is the flu a severe sickness? What signs do folks expertise?
Dr. A.S. Leana Wen: It could possibly definitely be severe. The CDC estimates this influenza induced 9 to 41 million sicknesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths yearly in the US between 2010 and 2020.
Flu signs embrace fever, muscle aches, complications, fatigue, cough and runny nostril. Many individuals get higher inside a number of days, however some should still really feel unwell for 10 days to 2 weeks after signs seem. Some develop issues, together with sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and irritation of the mind. The flu also can make underlying situations worse – for instance, folks with power lung and coronary heart situations might expertise a worsening of their situation because of the flu.
Even typically wholesome folks can develop into very sick from the flu. Nonetheless, those that are notably vulnerable to extreme results embrace folks age 65 and older, younger youngsters underneath 2, pregnant folks, and folks with underlying medical situations.
CNN: What’s the advantage of the vaccine, particularly if some folks can get the flu regardless of getting the shot?
Wen: The flu vaccine does two issues. First, and most significantly, it lowers your probabilities of getting a severe sickness—that’s, being hospitalized or dying. Second, it will probably additionally scale back your probabilities of getting the flu altogether.
In a method, it isn’t too completely different from the Covid-19 vaccine. An important purpose to get each the flu and coronavirus pictures is to stop severe sickness. New information revealed in the newest CDC incidence and mortality report exhibits this yr’s flu vaccine reduces the chance of hospitalization by about 50%. A 2018 research discovered that folks vaccinated towards the flu had been 59% much less more likely to find yourself within the intensive care unit because of the flu in comparison with those that weren’t vaccinated.
The effectiveness of the vaccine can fluctuate relying on how effectively the vaccine matches the circulating strains of influenza. The Cited by the CDC vaccine effectiveness towards “care-driven ailments” ranges from 23% to 61%, relying on the yr and vaccine-strain match. So it’s true that you may get the flu vaccine and nonetheless get the flu. However the vaccine reduces your probabilities of it taking place – and, very importantly, it reduces the possibility that you just may get very sick.
One other factor to think about is that there are lots of others viruses that may trigger flu-like signs. The flu vaccine helps shield towards viral infections attributable to influenza, however there are lots of different causes of viral syndromes, together with adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and others. These different viruses additionally unfold simply and there are not any vaccines for them. I typically hear sufferers say that they received the flu as soon as the identical yr they received their flu shot, and that is why they do not need to get vaccinated once more. However once I ask them in the event that they actually have been recognized with the flu or in the event that they’re simply having flu-like signs, they are saying the latter.
CNN: Ought to youngsters and pregnant girls additionally get the flu vaccine?
Wen: Undoubtedly. These teams are notably susceptible to extreme results, so it is rather necessary that they obtain the flu vaccine.
Comparable outcomes are present in people who find themselves pregnant. Not solely does flu vaccine protects pregnant girls, if the vaccine is given throughout being pregnant, it additionally helps shield the newborn from the flu through the first few months of its life. That is necessary as a result of the flu vaccine will not be accessible to youngsters till they’re 6 months of age or older.
CNN: Are you able to get the flu from the vaccine?
Wen: No. The flu shot is inactivated vaccine, which suggests it doesn’t comprise a stay virus and subsequently can not trigger the flu. It is usually a really effectively tolerated vaccine, the most typical facet impact being discomfort on the injection website which disappears after a day.
CNN: In case you’ve gotten the Covid-19 vaccine, do you continue to want the flu vaccine?
Wen: sure. Totally different vaccines goal completely different viruses. The Covid vaccine helps shield towards Covid, however doesn’t shield towards the flu, and vice versa. You may get the Covid vaccine (or divalent booster) on the similar time you get the flu vaccine, simply at a unique injection website.
CNN: Some folks waited till late within the flu season to get the flu vaccine. Is that this a good suggestion?
Wen: Not in the mean time, as a result of it’s now clear that the flu season is beginning sooner than traditional. Circumstances are already excessive and it takes about two weeks to attain optimum immune safety after vaccination. I’d encourage individuals who haven’t but obtained the flu vaccine to take action now.
CNN: What ought to folks learn about flu remedy?
Wen: Most instances of the flu will be handled symptomatically, which suggests sufferers get relaxation, hydration, and remedy for signs that happen, comparable to fever-reducing medicines comparable to acetaminophen or ibuprofen. There are additionally antiviral therapies accessible. That is particularly necessary for folks at excessive danger of growing extreme flu issues and/or those that are very sick. The earlier such remedy begins, the higher. An oral drug, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), will also be given to non-high-risk sufferers inside 48 hours of the onset of sickness.
I’d encourage everybody to have a plan for the flu, simply as they need to have a plan for Covid. Ask your physician beforehand whether or not you need to take Tamiflu or one other antiviral remedy. Know how one can get examined and the place you may entry remedy, together with after hours and weekends.
CNN: How can folks forestall getting the flu?
Wen: Influenza is principally unfold by airborne droplets — when an contaminated particular person coughs or sneezes, these droplets can get on somebody close by. It is also potential for droplets to land on a floor that somebody can develop into contaminated by touching after which touching their nostril, mouth, or eyes.
We may also help scale back the unfold of the flu by staying away from others whereas signs are current. We must always all cough or sneeze into our elbow or tissue and wash our arms steadily, together with after touching high-touch surfaces. People notably susceptible to extreme results ought to think about sporting a masks to scale back the possibility of contracting viral sicknesses such because the flu. And, after all, get vaccinated!
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