The World Health Organization monitors the epidemiology of influenza viruses throughout the world, and makes a recommendation each year about which strains should be included in the flu vaccine for the following flu season. This is because flu viruses are changing all the time. Small changes in the genes of the flu viruses happen over time and people’s immune system may still recognise the new virus if previously exposed. However, eventually flu viruses change so much that a person’s antibodies may not recognise newer viruses and you may become sick from the flu.
Sometimes there is a major change in a flu virus, such as when the H1N1 virus emerged with a new combination of genes and infected thousands of people in 2009, causing a pandemic.
Our flu season is just around the corner and while some of us religiously line up for our annual flu shots, there are others who say:
I never get the flu, or
The vaccine doesn’t work, or
I don’t want a sore arm, or
I’m healthy, I don’t need a flu vaccine.
There are very good reasons why the “naysayers” should think differently this year.
The flu (which started in Australia) in the UK and America has been particularly severe this season, and for this reason it is important that you consider vaccination.
Flu viruses spread very quickly from person to person.
Even if the flu vaccine is not 100% effective against the current flu strain, it will reduce your chances of getting the flu.
More importantly, by having the flu vaccine you will protect others, via what is called “herd immunity”. Others may be vulnerable family members such as small babies and the elderly, as well as those who are immunocompromised.
So while the symptoms of flu (high temperatures, body pain, sore throat, tiredness, sore throat, loss of appetite) are the same year in and year out, some flu strains may cause the symptoms to last for a long time and be more severe.
There are signs that the flu this year will be severe and we can be prepared by having a flu vaccination, washing our hands regularly and avoiding contact with people who have the flu. Remember that the vaccine is about reducing your risk, not entirely eliminating it. Evidence illustrates that, even when the flu vaccine is not considered to be highly effective, it is still worth having a shot.
Please note: Infants under 6 months of age and people who are allergic to eggs should NOT have a flu vaccine.
Consider other options with your doctor if you are allergic to eggs, as the flu vaccine contains eggs. In addition, if you have reacted to a flu vaccine in the past, discuss options with your doctor.
Source: Medscheme Health Policy Unit
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.