By Dr. Dave Hnida
-Seems like every year we hear we are in for a whopper of a flu season and that you had better hurry up and get that flu shot.
Well, this year is no different… but there’s a little ammunition to add some punch to this year’s advice.
It comes from the “land down under.” That’s right, Australia.
Right now, they are in the middle of a winter flu season that soon will be heading our way. And by taking a peek at what is happening on the other side of the world, it’s possible to make an educated guess about how things will be in our neck of the woods.
Turns out, their flu season, which began in July, has really been a rough one. Triple the cases compared to last year and so far, triple the deaths.
The annual flu vaccine is drawn from the vile into the needle Feb. 7, 2015, at Crawford Kids Clinic in Aurora. (credit: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
The good news is that the vaccine against the four possible strains of influenza making the rounds of Australia and New Zealand has been fairly effective. That means what we are going to use for our season should be effective as well, that’s provided there is little mutation of any of the strains as they make the journey to the northern hemisphere.
What does that mean for you? It means, as always, a flu vaccine is a really, really good idea. And when the vaccine becomes available is the time to get it. And that’ll be in the days and weeks to come.
Sure, the vaccine any year is never perfect. It doesn’t prevent all cases of influenza.
But if you are immunized, you will have a less severe case that won’t last as long compared to if you didn’t roll up your sleeve.
Who needs a vaccine? Everyone, six months of age and older.
There is an obvious emphasis on the very young, seniors, pregnant women, and those who have underlying health issues. But everyone could benefit from a flu vaccine.
A few things to keep in mind:
A flu shot CANNOT give you the flu, since it is made with killed virus particles.
The nasal spray vaccine is no longer being used.
We now have a version of the vaccine that is okay for most people with egg allergies.
And kids who are between the ages of 6 months through 8 years should receive two vaccines if this is the first time they are being vaccinated. That’s because the first time their immune systems are exposed to the virus, the initial vaccine “primes the pump” of the immune system, while a second one, at least four weeks later, adds strong protection.
If you’ve got a child who needs two vaccines, makes sure you get that first one ASAP, so that second one can be given when flu season makes its debut (typically October).
If you’ve ever had true influenza, not some “cold or flu symptoms,” you know how nasty the illness can be. It lays you up in bed and keeps you there for days. And then it takes a few weeks to get your strength back— and that’s the best case scenario.
So please don’t consider the plea to get a flu shot as “crying wolf.” It’s a nasty bug that can be stomped, but you need to be protected.
It would be sad to be the person who crawls in to see me… sick as a dog… moaning, “But I’ve never gotten the flu before.” Well, I’m sure you’ve never been that sick before. Trust me, you won’t like it one bit.
Let us help keep you healthy.
Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida