Influenza Vaccine

The monsoons herald the arrival of freshness and revival in nature. As the umbrellas go up, the incidence of flu too goes up.  Influenza also called as the flu is a common respiratory infection that is caused by certain germs called as viruses which infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu is common during seasonal change. It is highly contagious which means that it can spread rapidly from ‘person to person”. The flu virus spreads through air. The flu usually happens in small outbreaks, but sometimes it spreads speedily and affects many people over an area at the same time…this is called as an epidemic. The flu can knock down energy and make one sick for a week to 10 days. It can make one miss several days of school or work. It is often confused with the common cold, but its symptoms are more severe and can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Some symptoms which usually begin 2-3 days after exposure may be:

Why is a vaccine required?

The flu is a highly contagious disease. Since it spreads through air through infected droplets while sneezing or coughing, anyone can get it. The complications of flu can be deadly especially if you are for those in the high-risk group. This includes elderly people (>65 years) people with certain chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children. Hence it is better that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year. This also helps in limiting the spread of infection amongst people.

You may wonder if a flu vaccination is really necessary! Yes, it is does, there are some reasons for this:

Flu vaccination can reduce incidence and severity of flu, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. It also helps in limiting the spread of infection amongst people.

Who should get the vaccine?1

It is better that everyone gets the flu vaccine every year. While most people recover from the common flu in less than two weeks, some people can get complications like pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death, especially if their immune system is weak. The flu also can make chronic health problems like asthma worse. Hence, it is better not to take and chances and vaccinate to protect.

 

What is the schedule for flu vaccine?

One should get vaccinated every flu season for the best protection against flu. Flu is a seasonal type of disease and peaks in the monsoons in some parts of India; and the winter in other parts of India.2It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection3 Hence vaccination must be carried out atleast a month or two before the anticipated season when the virus spreads. Your doctor will be the best judge to decide a vaccination schedule best suited for the region of your residence.

How effective is the vaccine?

How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. 4 There are several strains and subtypes of influenza virus. The vaccine’s effectiveness will vary depending on which strain of virus is circulating and if the vaccine has a similarity or "match" between that flu virus and the strains included in the flu vaccine. During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it may not work so well. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it will be effective in preventing flu illness.

In addition to this, factors such as age, underlying medical conditions, history of prior infections and prior vaccinations can affect the benefits received from vaccination.

Does it have any side effects?

The flu vaccine has mild side-effects like nasal congestion, headache, myalgias pain in the muscles, fever or increased risk of wheezing.  These usually go away within a few days.6

 

 

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References:

  1. BMJ Open. 2016; 6(3): e010133
  2. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 Oct; 20(10): 1723–1726
  3. Am J Manag Care. 2010 Mar;16(3): e75-e85.
  4. Lancet Infect Dis. 2012 Jan;12(1):36-44
  5. BMJ Open. 2016; 6(3): e010133
  6. Curr Top MicrobiolImmunol. 2009;333:43-82.