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Flu Season Remains

You Are Not Out of the Woods

It’s the New Year; you haven’t had your flu shot yet, and so far you’ve gotten by unscathed.Statistically, you’re one of many, as reported cases of influenza throughout the state of Colorado have been unseasonably light this year, with few hospitalizations occurring. 

But that doesn’t mean your luck will hold out. Although flu season traditionally starts in October, it peaks in January and February, with countless more individuals succumbing to this highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract, transmitted when a an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

It’s important to remember that just because you had a flu shot last year doesn’t mean you’re protected this year. A vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time; therefore an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing (a metamorphous called “antigenic drift”), they can change from one season to the next, or they can even change within the same year.

For the 2015-16 season, there are several types of flu vaccines available, and so far the CDC seems to have guessed correctly with all actively effective.

Some protect against three viral flu strains (trivalent), while others protect against four (quadrivalent). Although most vaccines are given by injection, a nasal spray vaccine is also available (FluMist) for healthy people between 2 and 49 years of age. In addition, a high dose flu shot is available for individuals over 65.

The viruses in the flu shot are not live, as often rumored, but rather inactivated, so you cannot get the flu from the injection. You may, however, experience mild side effects such as soreness, redness, low-grade fever and muscle aches soon after vaccination, but these are mild and short lived.

Since it takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and protect against the influenza virus, it’s best that people get inoculated before the flu begins spreading in their community.

Although you may have chosen not to receive the vaccine earlier in the season, now might be a good time to reconsider, not only for yourself, but also for the health and wellbeing of those around you.