Last year’s outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus resulted in the first flu pandemic in over 40 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 33 flu-related deaths a day occurred from the spread of this highly contagious virus, with the majority of the deaths occurring in people under 65.
Anyone can be infected with the flu virus, however, certain groups are at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications. Children (especially those under two), the elderly, and people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart failure have a harder time fighting the flu, which can lead to hospitalization and even death. Despite these grim sounding statistics, there is one major step people can take to help keep themselves and their families safe this flu season: Get vaccinated.
When people receive a seasonal flu shot, it builds up the body’s defense against the flu, thereby decreasing the chance of getting sick if contact is made with the virus. The flu shot contains dead flu virus and is approved for people six months of age and older. An alternative to the flu shot is the flu nasal spray. The flu nasal spray is a great option for healthy people between the ages of two and 49 who would prefer not to get an injection but still want to get vaccinated.Weakened flu virus is contained in the nasal spray which helps increase the body’s protection against the flu, much like the flu shot. Because the flu virus is weakened, it is unable to cause the flu in healthy individuals.
Flu virus continuously changes, making it important for people to get vaccinated Annually. Last year there were two types of flu shots available: an H1N1 and a seasonal flu shot. This year, however, people will only need to receive one shot, as the seasonal vaccine protects against the H1N1 virus, as well as two other strains of flu.
After being vaccinated, most people will have built up their defense against the flu in about two weeks and this protection can last up to one year. Peak flu outbreaks are generally between the months of December and March, however the flu can start spreading as early as October. Because of this, people should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
With the attention given H1N1 virus and its impact on community health, last year may have been the first time you sought a flu shot for yourself or for your family. This year, it is just as important to get vaccinated, and experts agree that children as young as 6 months of age and all healthy adults should do so as soon as possible. It is extremely easy and convenient to get vaccinated, as many local pharmacies provide both the flu mist and flu shot without an appointment.Now is the perfect time to protect you and your loved ones and get vaccinated.