Why should you get the flu vaccine?

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By Ben Hess, M.D., Chief Medical Officer

 

As we look ahead to peak influenza season in Minnesota, now is a good time to consider getting your annual flu vaccine. The vaccine is absolutely safe and can protect you from contracting the virus and suffering severe symptoms that can put you down and out for one to two weeks.

 

Cold and Flu Season Street SignAbout this year’s vaccine

This year’s vaccine contains four strains of influenza, including H1N1 or swine flu. The strains included in the vaccine change every year based on extensive research and well-documented flu migration patterns in other parts of the world.

On average, about once every seven years, there is a bad match or the virus changes from the time of production to when flu season actually arrives. This is why the vaccine is not very effective some years.

In the U.S., the peak flu season is approximately November to February. However, in Minnesota, the peak is from January to February. The virus typically affects coastal states and large metro areas first, which is why I recommend that snowbirds and those who travel get their vaccinations early.

Check out this map that shows the steady progression of the virus.

 

Feeling sick after getting the vaccine?

One argument I commonly hear for why people opt out of the flu vaccine is they are worried they will get the flu from the vaccine. Here are some important things to consider:

Dead virus. The flu vaccine that we give here at TCHC is a dead virus. You would never get the flu from this vaccine.

Delayed effect. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective. It is possible to contract the flu in this time period, which is why it’s important to get the vaccine early.Sick woman sneezing to tissue. Medicine, hot beverage and dirty paper towels in front. Girl caught cold. Cough syrup and handkerchiefs on table. Very ill person feeling bad and having fever.

Specific strains. The vaccine contains specific strains of the flu that researchers believe will be most prevalent during the current season. It is possible to contract a strain that is not included in the vaccine.

No response. A certain percentage of people simply don’t respond to the vaccine. The reasons are unclear, and because the vaccine changes every year, it is hard to research.

Already infected. The flu has an incubation period of up to four days. If you were already infected with the flu before you get the vaccine, then the vaccine will be ineffective.

Immune response. It is possible to have an immune response to the vaccine, which can give you muscle aches and pains or a mild fever for two to three days. This is reassuring because it means your immune system is responding to the vaccine and you are likely more protected from the flu.

 

Influenza – a serious illness

Influenza is extremely contagious and is spread through droplets when people talk, sneeze or cough. Typical symptoms last about one week and include high fever, muscle aches, upper respiratory infection and fatigue. Most people will experience weakness and fatigue for another one to two weeks after the actual illness.

Those most at risk are the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and children, especially infants younger than 6 months old because they can’t be vaccinated.

Flu vaccine calendar noteTo a certain extent, the younger you are, the more severe your reaction will be. Most symptoms that come from the flu are caused by your immune system, so the healthier your immune system, the potentially more severe your symptoms will be.

If you come down with the flu, your best course of action is to stay home from work or school, drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, and take anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen or Aleve.

The flu is also a fairly significant cause of mortality in the U.S. From the 1976-1977 season to 2006-2007 season, flu-associated deaths ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 annually, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Because the severity of the virus is unpredictable, I highly recommend getting the vaccine as soon as is convenient for you. By doing so, you potentially avoid illness for yourself while ultimately preventing the spread to vulnerable individuals.

 

For additional information about influenza, visit www.cdc.gov.

 

About the Author: A board-certified family practitioner and Chief Medical Officer at Tri-County Health Care, Ben Hess, M.D., was inspired to study medicine because he wanted to make a difference in people’s lives every day. While not at work, Hess enjoys hunting, fishing, bowling and listening to public radio. He and his wife have three daughters and make their home in Verndale.Dr. Hess


Flu Season is Near: Why You Should Get a Flu Shot Today

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By: Amy Severson, FNP, APRN

Have you gotten your flu shot for this upcoming winter season? Influenza, otherwise commonly known as the flu, is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death.

flushot1The Center of Disease Control (CDC) states:

  • Between 1976 and 2007, flu-associated deaths ranged from 3,000 – 49,000 people.
  • In recent years, 80 – 90% of flu-related deaths occurred in people 65 years and older.
  • Flu vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone starting at 6 months of age.
  • If an expectant mom gets a flu shot during pregnancy, the vaccine also helps protect her baby during its first six months of life.

Flu activity typically begins in the fall months and peaks in January and February, though depending on the season, it can last until May. The CDC recommends getting an annual seasonal flu vaccine to best prevent getting the flu, and not spread it to others. The more people get covered, the less flu we will see in our communities.

A lot of patients ask me, “When is the best time to get a flu shot?”

Since it can take one to two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective, it’s best to get vaccinated in the month of October if possible. Though Federal Health Officials say it’s better to get a shot anytime, then skip the vaccine altogether.  For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends getting a flu shot, and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Unfortunately, CDC studies found in the past few years, FluMist hasn’t protected against certain influenza strains as well as the flu shot. For this reason, FluMist will not be available this season until more studies are conducted to figure out the reason why this is.

Get your flu shot disease ill illness healthy health doctor

Why bother with getting a flu shot?

The Center for Disease Control states that a flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 50 – 60% when given at the optimal time. So do yourself and your neighbor a favor, and get a flu shot this fall!

Upcoming Area 2016 Flu Shot Clinics:

Tri-County Health Care will be hosting a Flu Shot Clinic at each one of our clinics in the month of October. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. Refreshments will be served.

Ottertail: October 14 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-367-6262

Wadena: October 18 – 7 – 8:30 a.m. 218-631-1100

Henning: October 19 – 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. 218-583-2953

Verndale: October 24 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-445-5990

Sebeka: October 26 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-837-5333

Wadena: October 27 – 5:30 – 7 p.m. 218-631-1100

Bertha: October 28 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-924-2250

To get more information about these upcoming clinics click here.

 

Amy Severson, APRN, CNP

Amy Severson, APRN, CNP

 

About the Author: Amy has worked for TCHC for the past 14 years, the last nine years at the Henning Medical Clinic.  She feels privileged to work in the town she was raised in, and take care of families she’s known her whole life. She lives with her husband Eric on East Battle Lake with their three children; Ethan, age 14, Emma, age 12, and Elliot, age 8.  In her time away from the clinic, you’ll find her at Ottertail Central football games and supporting the Henning Hornets in volleyball and basketball.  She also is the head of the youth group at her church.

 

 

 

 


The information and opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author, and are not designed to constitute advice or recommendations as to any disease, ailment or physical condition. You should not act or rely solely upon any information contained in these articles without seeking the advice of your personal physician.