The beautiful reddish hues of fall and the cold climate in winter are just around the corner. Along with the seasonal change comes a silent attacker that targets the immune system. Influenza, or more popularly referred to as the flu, is a virus that circulates year-round.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the influenza virus peaks between December and February, but it can also last to May. While its overall health impact can vary depending on the season, the flu places a burden on the health of people, with some feeling really ill or others requiring hospital confinement, and in really worse cases, it can result in death.
The CDC also said that each year, about 5 percent to 20 percent of the population in the U.S. experience the flu. In 2016, more than 600,000 people were hospitalized due to the virus. Meanwhile, the major line of defense against the influenza virus comes in the form of vaccines, which was 42 percent effective or those who got the shots were 42 percent less likely to seek additional care.
Is the U.S. in short supply of flu-fighting drugs?
Influenza vaccines help to minimize the effects of the virus. However, the U.S. could be in short supply of the much-needed vaccine as the country relies on foreign trade for medical needs.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Newsweek that an influenza pandemic in India or China could keep people from coming to work and places an impact on manufacturing. Osterholm warned that a disruption in the supply is not tolerated as the consequences that follow a flu infection could be deadly. He stated, “The flu will accentuate all of the other health problems that we have.”
The current risk level of H7N9 virus is low. Still, the U.S. is working with the World Health Organization to monitor the virus. The strain is found in poultry, and it infected 764 individuals during the last flu season. It is passed from animals and is rarely spread between humans. Moreover, if a pandemic happens, it would be better to have a backup plan in the event of drug shortages.
Trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines
While any approved flu vaccine offers protection, there are some that safeguard a person from more strains compared to others. A trivalent vaccine protects against two A strains and one B strain. A newer vaccine called a quadrivalent offers protection from the above strains, including an additional B strain.
Moreover, a quadrivalent vaccine is one of the shots approved for the 2017 to 2018 flu season in the U.S. However, it should be taken as an injectible as health experts are warning against nasal flu vaccines. Dr. William Schaffner from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine recommends the quadrivalent vaccine as health professionals are expecting a more dominant H3N2 strain. Dr. Schaffner said that it causes severe illnesses in individuals aged over 65.
Should you get a flu vaccination now?
Getting a vaccine before the influenza virus gets to its full-blown state is one of the smartest moves you can make for yourself and for those around you.
To lessen the blow of the virus, the CDC suggests receiving a flu shot even before the season starts. This is because it will take some time for the vaccine to work to its full potential. Second, avoid touching everything as the virus tends to lurk in the most unexpected places. Third, it’s a myth that taking a flu shot will make you sick. Vaccines consist of antibodies, which are an inactive virus that doesn’t transmit the infection. Lastly, get a flu shot to avoid passing it to your children, co-workers, friends and even grandparents.
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