|October 8, 1999||Flu Activity Report|
|CDC Influenza Prevention and Control|
FLU VACCINE URGED BEFORE THE SEASON STARTS
SPRINGFIELD, IL Its nearly flu season again, but the good news is there is a way to reduce the chance of getting the fever, cough, sore throat, running nose, muscle aches and overall lousy feeling that comes with this virus.
An annual flu vaccination will prevent illness or, at the least, lessen the severity of the illness, said Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director. This protection, while recommended for anyone who wants to avoid getting the flu, is especially important for the elderly and those with chronic diseases, who are at higher risk for medical complications.
There is no way to predict exactly when the 1999-2000 flu season will begin, but typically it runs from November until April, with peak activity most often between January and March. October is the optimal time to be vaccinated because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and provide protection. The vaccination, however, can be given at any time during the flu season.
The influenza vaccine does not always protect a person from getting the flu -- it is 70 percent to 90 percent effective in preventing influenza among healthy adults -- but usually the symptoms are milder in those who have been immunized.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Typically, clinical features of flu infection include fever (usually 100 degrees F to 103 degrees F in adults and often even higher in children) and chills, and respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
The flu is spread easily from person to person, often when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the virus enters another persons body through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth. Transmission can occur by breathing airborne droplets that carry the virus or by touching items recently contaminated by an infectious persons (such as a doorknob).
After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Each year, an estimated to 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.
For most, the flu lingers for a week or two and then they recover. For others, the flu can cause serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.
Dr. Lumpkin said flu vaccinations are recommended for all persons, but the shots are particularly important for those 65 years of age and older and others at increased risk of influenza complications, including --
Besides the flu shot, Dr. Lumpkin also suggested that the elderly receive a vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia and others with chronic medical conditions should check with their physician about the vaccine. Unlike the flu shot, the pneumococcal vaccine is usually given only once for lifetime protection rather than yearly.
In addition, the following groups should be vaccinated against the flu because, while not at high risk themselves, they may spread it to persons who are at high risk:
Dr. Lumpkin said the vaccine is safe, effective and made from killed influenza viruses, which cannot cause the flu. Less than one-third of those who receive the shot have some
soreness at the vaccination site and about 5 percent to 10 percent experience mild side effects, such as headache or low-grade fever, for about a day after vaccination. People who are allergic to eggs should or who have a fever should check with their physician before receiving the vaccine.
Flu shots must be given annually, since scientists formulate a new vaccine each year from
inactivated influenza viruses in circulation at that time. This years flu shot protects against the flu viruses CDC expects will circulate in the United States this year: A Beijing, A Sydney and B Beijing. Strains of type A flu tend to affect more people because they change quickly and more often, so people are not able to develop immunity as well as they can to type B strains.
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