Flu season is quickly approaching, and the best way to keep it at bay is with a flu shot. The season typically starts in early October and can last as late as May.
The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination, which is why the time is now to consider getting the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone older than six months get the vaccine.
The vaccine protects against the viruses that research from the previous season indicates will be the most common. This flu season, patients at Regional One Health will receive the quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four flu viruses – influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and two influenza B viruses.
“There are always two against the A virus, which is the one that causes people to get bad sick,” said Regional One Health Assistant Director of Pharmacy Marilyn D. Lee, Pharm.D., BCPS. “With the additional B strain we’ll have additional coverage this year. Early on last year the prevalent strains were the A strains and a little burst of B into the spring.”
Patients at any Regional One Health primary care facility can ask for the flu vaccine.
There are symptoms to pay attention to for flu, including fever, aches and pains, chills, sore throat, fatigue and runny nose. When those symptoms come on it’s important to see a medical professional. If those symptoms turn out to be the flu, a medical provider can prescribe an antiviral treatment, which is important in those first 48 hours.
If you are sick, stay home while you have an active fever. A person is contagious until free of fever for 24 hours.
“To stop the spread of germs it’s important to wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and to avoid those that are sick,” she said.
Best said it’s important to disinfect surfaces that could be contaminated with flu germs, including phones and computers.
And keep your hands away from your face. That’s much harder for young children, which is another reason the flu vaccine is important for youngsters. It’s easy to touch something that’s contaminated and then touch your eyes or nose.
“The most important thing from a strategy point of view is to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” Lee said, adding that the flu season doesn’t have a set start and end point; it changes year to year, which is why getting the shot sooner rather than later is important.
Dr. Karen Andrews, MD, said she encourages patients who come in for regular appointments at Harbor of Health to also get a flu vaccination.
“If you’re a new patient we’ll establish you as a patient first so we have your medical history,” she said.