Flu season is upon us, and it’s important to know how to protect yourself. Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is an acute viral infection caused by an influenza virus. Common symptoms include muscle and joint pain, high fever, sore throat and runny nose. The flu affects between 5 and 20 percent of Americans each year. Approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related symptoms, and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people die each year from flu-related causes.
The most effective way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine. About two weeks after receiving the vaccine, antibodies begin to develop. These antibodies protect against infection by the viruses contained in the vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Everyone 6 months and older is recommended for annual flu vaccination with rare exception.” People at high risk, such as those with heart conditions, diabetes and asthma, as well as pregnant women and people over the age of 65 need to get their annual flu shot to potentially avoid getting seriously ill from complications of influenza
You can get the vaccine at pharmacies, retail clinics or doctor offices. With over 60,000 pharmacies in the United States, the convenience of getting your flu shot by your trusted pharmacist is invaluable. Pharmacists are trained extensively on administering vaccines, including flu vaccines, so this is a great way to get protected. Also, the number of retail clinics, which are staffed mostly by physician assistants and/or nurse practitioners, has grown dramatically. These healthcare professionals are trained to administer vaccines, providing another safe and convenient route for getting protected against vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu.
While no vaccine is 100% effective against the disease that it is designed to protect, the influenza vaccine is matched with the anticipated flu strains each year with the intention of providing maximum protection. Neighbors who get the vaccine but say they still got the flu or the media who states that the vaccine is not effective in a given year are not the experts. The best course of action, if in doubt, is to contact your healthcare provider or read the flu-related information on the CDC website.