Autumn is the start of flu season in the United States. The flu season occurs primarily in the winter months; however, flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May. And while the virus typically peaks during the onset of the winter months, the virus circulates year round. As a reminder, it takes about 2 weeks for a flu vaccine to take effect and offer protection. Immunity declines over time, which is why it is recommended to be vaccinated yearly.
Each year presents new strains and treatment for the flu, and the 2018-2019 flu season is no different. A few things are new this season:
Only injectable flu shots are recommended. Live attenuated influenza vaccine – or the nasal spray vaccine – is not recommended for use during this season because of concerns about its effectiveness.
Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses.
There will be some new vaccines on the market this season.
The recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed.
Some flu shots protect against three flu viruses and some protect against four flu viruses.
Options this season for the flu shots are:
Standard dose flu shots are mostly given into the muscle (usually with a needle, but one can be given to some people with a jet injector). One is given into the skin.
A high-dose shot or with adjuvant is for older people.
A shot made with virus grown in cell culture.
A shot made using a vaccine production technology that does not require the use of flu virus.
So how do we protect ourselves from flu this season? The CDC recommends the following:
Yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious virus.
Stay away from those who have a fever when the virus is communicable.
If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
There are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza illness.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub and stay away from those who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.