It’s wet and dreary and influenza season is upon us. Rózsakert Medical Center’s flu shots have arrived: the time is NOW to protect yourself and your family from this unpleasant and sometimes dangerous virus. Our pediatrician Dr Kinga Jókay put together a summary of everything you need to know about this year's flu and flu shot.
Ten facts about the flu:
- Influenza is not synonymous with the common cold. The flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness, which can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, hospitalizations and even death.
- The influenza jab cannot cause the flu, because it contains no live virus. It is an inactivated, “dead” vaccine. If, in the past, you became ill soon after receiving the shot, it was due to a virus other than influenza, and not the vaccination.
- The vaccine does not protect against every type of influenza, which could be circulating. Each year scientists reformulate the contents of the shot according to the strains that were around the previous year. Sometimes the educated guess hits the bull’s eye, other years the vaccine is a poor match for the currently active strains. But, the flu jab is still your best bet in prevention of disease.
- There are hundreds of types of influenza. The 2017 vaccine, Vaxigrip Tetra, protects against 2 strains of influenza A and 2 strains of B. Last year’s Fluarix contained a total of only 3.
- The flu jab is not just for those with chronic illness like asthma, diabetes and renal disease. It is recommended for anyone for whom there is a licensed vaccine. It is important to note that those who are pregnant, over 50 years of age or obese, are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza than the general population.
- Having an egg allergy is NOT a contraindication to having a flu shot, and neither is a runny nose, a rash, or mild diarrhea. You should postpone immunization if you have a moderate to severe illness, have a history of a significant reaction to a previous influenza vaccine, or developed Guillain Barré syndrome within 6 weeks of vaccination.
- The most common side effects of the vaccine are redness and soreness at the site of injection, fever and malaise. These generally last 1 to 3 days. Influenza illness, on the other hand, can last over a week.
- Good news for those over 65: there are special formulations of influenza vaccine, high dose and adjuvanted, which offer even better protection for seniors.
- Bad news for children under 3 years of age in 2017: there is no vaccine in Europe that is licensed for children under 36 months. In the U.S., the same Vaxigrip Tetra (Fluzone Quadrivalent by its North American name) is recommended for infants 6 to 36 months.
- Cocooning is a method of protecting babies too young to receive immunization against influenza. It entails vaccinating all family members and caretakers to decrease the risk of catching this unpredictable and burdensome disease.