Looking Ahead to Flu Season
It may be difficult to think about the winter and how to avoid a bout with the flu as the thermometer continues to register triple-digit temperatures. Nevertheless, preparations are well under way. The World Health Organization (WHO) makes its recommendations for the post-pandemic period of H1N1 influenza infections, as a recent report from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends “vaccination be administered to all persons aged 6 months [and older] for the 2010-11 influenza season.” This year’s seasonal flu vaccine is formulated to protect against an influenza B virus, an influenza A H3N2 virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus responsible for pandemic levels of infection last flu season.
Research findings suggests that these flu strains, in particular, will be the most common in the upcoming flu season. Vaccines have been created by several drug manufacturers and exist in two forms:
- A flu shot containing inactive (killed) virus that is delivered by a needle. It is safe for people 6 months of age and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic disease.
- A nasal-spray containing live attenuated (weakened) virus incapable of causing the flu. It is safe for healthy people between 2 and 49 years of age who are not pregnant.
The seasonal flu vaccines have been approved by the FDA and are currently being shipped to distributors. It takes about two weeks for the body to develop the protective antibodies that fight the influenza virus. Therefore, flu vaccines should be administered in September or as soon as they become available.
While CDC’s ACIP has recommended universal immunization of people 6 months of age and older, the following individuals should not be immunized against influenza:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
- Infants younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group so their parents and caregivers should be immunized instead.)
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
“The best way to protect yourself and your family against influenza is to get vaccinated every year…a new seasonal influenza vaccine each year is an important tool in the prevention of influenza related illnesses and death.” ~Karen Midthun, M.D., acting director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Accessed August 10, 2010