This article was written for the Anguillian by Dr. Paige Edgar, Professor as part of Saint James School of Medicine’s regular series of columns.
Anguilla is a holiday destination and as such is vulnerable to communicable diseases ‘imported’ to the island. As a member of the teaching staff of Saint James School of Medicine I encourage you to please take the time to get your flu vaccination this season.
The following are excerpts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. Although epidemics of flu happen every year, the timing, severity, and length of the epidemic depends on many factors, including what influenza viruses are spreading and whether they match the viruses in the vaccine.
Will new strains of flu circulate this season?
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu virus strains to appear each year.
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. (and therefore Anguilla) in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.
What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. Getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year is always a good idea, and the protection you get from vaccination will last throughout the flu season.
Why get vaccinated against influenza (flu)?
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death.
Anyone can get the flu, and vaccination is the single best way to protect against influenza. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to family and friends.
Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread.
Getting vaccinated against the flu every season protects against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness this season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine as the first and most important step in preventing flu.
Who should get a flu vaccine?
Everyone is at risk for seasonal influenza.
Health experts now recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against influenza. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread and they can affect people differently based on their body’s ability to fight infection. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu, but certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu, including:
- People 65 years and older
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People with certain chronic health conditions like asthma and COPD, diabetes (both type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurological conditions, and certain other health conditions
- Pregnant women
Who should NOT get a flu vaccine?
Influenza vaccine is not approved for use in children younger than 6 months so they should not be vaccinated, but their caregivers should be vaccinated instead.
People who are sick with fever should wait until their symptoms pass to get vaccinated.
Some people should not be vaccinated before talking to their doctor. This includes:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past.
- People who developed Guillian-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously.
When to Get Vaccinated
Get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available in your community.
Flu vaccines are offered in many doctors’ offices and clinics, or at your local health department.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Inactivated influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.
What actions can I take to protect myself and my family against the flu this season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.
While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
In addition, you can take everyday preventive steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.
If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.
Is there treatment for the flu?
Yes. If you get sick, there are drugs that can treat flu illness. They are called antiviral drugs and they can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They also can prevent serious flu–related complications, like pneumonia.