Flu season is upon us and we need to start thinking about how to stay flu-free.
Although washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces are helpful, the flu virus is highly contagious and should not be taken lightly.
According to the CDC, each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of complication from the flu. These complications include:
- Ear infections
How Is the Flu Spread?
The flu is spread through respiratory secretions. For example, when infected people talk, cough or sneeze, respiratory droplets that contain the virus can potentially land in the mouths or noses of those nearby. The virus can also be spread through contact with secretions of an infected person on a doorknob, or other object when introduced into the mouth, eyes or nose of another individual.
So what can you do to stay healthy? When it comes to the flu, the best way to protect yourself is with an annual flu shot, which is recommended for anyone 6 years and older.
What Are My Options?
There are currently two types of vaccinations available. These include inactivated flu vaccines, which are administered as a shot, and a live vaccine, which is administered through the nose.
Although the nasal vaccine seems appealing, keep in mind that this form of vaccination is restricted to healthy, non-pregnant individuals ages 2-49.The nasal vaccine has proven to not be as effective as the flu shot. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that the nasal form not be used this season.
Can I Get the Flu from the Flu Vaccine?
Since the nasal vaccine is a ‘live’ vaccine, many people wonder if it can actually cause the flu. The answer to this question is no. The weakened viruses contained in the nasal spray are cold-adapted, and therefore designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist. The inactivated vaccine contains killed virus, and cannot cause the flu.
I Got a Flu Shot Last Year. Why Do I Need to Get One Again?
Many people question why they need to receive the flu vaccine every year. The influenza virus evolves rapidly and can produce new strains that a previous vaccine may not protect against. Therefore, it is important to receive the new vaccine annually.
We’re Already into Flu Season. Will a Flu Shot Still Help?
Although flu season has already begun, one can benefit from the vaccine even if it’s received after the start of the season. Keep in mind, however, that it takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, so the sooner you receive your vaccination, the better.
Visit any UPMC Urgent Care center, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., to get your shot and decrease the likelihood that you come down with the flu. Find the UPMC Urgent Care center closest to you.