For the past two years, the flu has essentially been MIA, with cases dwindling from social distancing, mask-wearing and other measures people have taken to curb the spread of Covid.
But this year, the flu virus, while rusty and dusty, seems to be roaring back — and that means getting your flu shot is more important than ever, experts say.
Normally in Fever, muscle pain, headache and fatigue, influenza can be serious or life-threatening, especially for children and immunocompromised, pregnant women and the elderly. It can cause complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissue. The virus can worsen chronic diseases such as asthma and heart disease.
20,000 to 40,000 people may die Influenza every flu seasonIt generally starts in October and can last till May. (The peak months are generally December through February.) The 2017-2018 season was particularly bad; 52,000 people died..
However, this number has dropped to an estimate 5,000 to 14,000 deaths In 2021-2022, that was less than the 10 flu seasons that preceded the pandemic. The year before that, flu activity was so low that the CDC He could not even generate weight estimatesIt does this every year.
A flu shot, which is expected to increase this season, can help prevent accidents. At least there are. Two main reasons Why you should get one every year: Your immunity to vaccines and infections declines over time, and flu viruses are constantly changing, meaning any protection you got from previous seasons will zip this year.
Another reason it’s so important to get the flu shot this year is that your immunity to the virus may not be the greatest, compared to two years after no exposure.
“In other words, the vaccine will make more people resistant to infection the following year because they have vaccine-derived immunity, and possibly boosted by infection,” said Johns Hopkins virologist Andrew Pekosz. “But without [getting infected] For many years, we tend to be more susceptible to the flu than usual. This is another reason to worry about a big flu season if the flu comes back.
Here’s everything you need to know about flu shots this flu season
Why you should get a flu shot this year
The US will watch the southern hemisphere’s flu season, which occurs earlier than the northern one, to see how the virus behaves. Unfortunately, Australia’s battle with influenza this year has been particularly “worrisome,” Pekosz said.
The country is not only experiencing a high number of cases, but also earlier than usual.
“Those are two things that concern us right now as we think about how to prepare for flu season,” Pekosz told BuzzFeed News, “especially since we’re all back to work inside, schools are full time.” , and we’re not doing a lot of public health interventions anymore.
And based on data from Australia so far, children in the U.S. may be more likely to get the flu this season, Pekosz said. influenza seasons, and may be more susceptible than older segments of the population.
Anti-Covid measures such as wearing face masks have also decreased significantly compared to the previous two years.
The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of the flu. You can still get sick, but the flu shot should reduce the chance that you’ll need emergency medical help. In the year A 2021 study found that adults who received the flu vaccine a 26% and 31% low risk ICU admission and death from influenza, respectively, compared with unvaccinated adults.
Flu shots Protect from four flu viruses It can be spread over a period of time. So if the vaccine doesn’t actually protect you from one of them, it may still protect you from the others.
However, as with covid vaccines, this protection may wane over time. A CDC analysis of flu vaccine effectiveness from 2011 to 2015 found that Protection is reduced by 6-11% per month, depending on the type of virus involved and remained intact for five to six months after vaccination. In general, vaccine effectiveness declines rapidly in people age 65 and older.
What you need to know about this year’s flu vaccine
First, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot, health officials say, with some Special recommendations or special conditions Based on age, health condition and allergy history.
And yes, you can get any of your covid vaccines and/or incentives At the same time as your flu shot. Most health professionals, including Pekosz, recommend it, mostly because of its convenience. (If you still have covid, don’t get tested; wait until you recover so you don’t infect anyone in the process.)
The best time to get the flu shot is in October, but if you miss that window, you should still get it as soon as possible. It’s later than ever because flu seasons are becoming more unpredictable and changing throughout the year, with some seasons reaching as late as March, according to the CDC.
And similar to the Covid vaccine, you should still get the flu shot even if you’ve already had the flu because the vaccine can protect you from other circulating viruses.
This year, the CDC recommends that people age 65 and older receive a A higher dose or flu vaccine with an adjuvant (An additional substance that improves the immune response): Fluzone, Flublok, or Fluad – all of these can cause additional temporary side effects such as headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and pain at the injection site for one to three days. The new recommendation is based on evidence that these shots are more effective in older people than the standard shot, which is still recommended for all age groups.
The guidelines are especially important because people age 65 and older are more likely to experience serious consequences from the flu. The CDC states that 70-85% of flu-related deaths and 50-70% of hospitalizations occur in this age group.
Other people Risk for severe flu infection Children with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, who are pregnant, and children under five, especially those under two.
The good news so far is that this year’s flu vaccine appears to be compatible with the viruses currently circulating, Pekosz said, but given the lack of flu cases in recent times, “we’re really concerned that we’re not collecting enough strains.” To understand exactly how the virus was working during the outbreak.
Normally, it takes about nine months between when scientists decide which virus they want to target in next year’s flu vaccine and when it’s time to vaccinate people, Pecos said, meaning they’re making decisions before the current flu season ends. “This is not an ideal place to be,” he added, especially since circulating influenza viruses can still mutate late into the season.
The delay ultimately comes down to how the flu vaccine works, which is a much longer process than the Covid vaccines. The companies behind the corona virus are both Moderna and Pfizer. Conducting clinical trials for their own influenza vaccines – According to Pekosz, the development is a “real game changer” because “we can wait until the end of the flu season to determine the exact types of viruses and better prepare for the next flu season.”
In the meantime, wearing a face mask in crowded rooms and staying at home when sick definitely helps. And remember: four are different and effective Antiviral drugs Helps you feel better and prevent serious illness; They work best if taken within 48 hours of your symptoms, says the CDC.
“The more you can do to help protect you from serious disease, the better,” Pekosz said.