Time to Get Your Flu Shot

October 14, 2016

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

The flu season is upon us again. Many people regard the flu as a minor annoyance, but this can be a mistake. Annual mortality from the influenza virus in the US is often significant. The 2009 swine flu pandemic resulted in some 12,470 deaths in the U.S. alone. The swine flu (H1N1 subtype) is closely related to the Spanish flu of 1918 that is thought to have caused 20 to 50 million deaths worldwide.

Even if the flu doesn’t kill you it can make you very sick, cause you to miss work, and spread to your family and close contacts. A lot of people I talk to think that a flu vaccine isn’t necessary for them, or won’t be effective. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Influenza is a rapidly changing, highly transmissible viral infection that spreads via aerosols, tiny droplets that spread through the air when people cough or sneeze. In this age of air travel, the flu can and does literally fly around the world in almost no time. Airplanes, airports, and anywhere that large numbers of people come in close contact rapidly facilitate its spread.

PREVENTION IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE STRATEGY: For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray will not be as effective for this season’s flu strains.

The good news is that there are now antiviral medications that are effective against the flu (though not the common cold). Early treatment (preferably within two days and not more than five) is important and while they can’t cure the infection, they will significantly shorten the duration of the illness.

The most common symptoms for diagnostic purposes are fever and cough. If influenza is epidemic and you have a high fever (greater than 102) and cough, the clinical presumption is that you have the flu. Adults younger than 65 with mild illness and no risk factors do not require testing or treatment. Within the first 48 hours of illness, antiviral treatment can be considered in order to reduce the duration of illness. The decision of whether to initiate antiviral therapy for each patient should be based on the doctor's judgment.

At First Stop Health, we can’t stop the spread of the flu, but we can arm you with the information to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. So go to the nearest drugstore clinic and get a flu shot today.  

Originally published Oct 14, 2016 9:46:43 PM.