Who should get a flu shot and why? Our medical analyst explains

Who should get a flu shot and why?  Our medical analyst explains


Welcome to this year’s flu season.

This year’s flu strain has already begun to spread across the United States, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.. There have been at least 880,000 cases of influenza, nearly 7,000 hospitalizations, and tragically 360 deaths from influenza this fall, including one pediatric death. Since 2009, during the height of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, there has been no so many flu cases so early In the season

Despite these numbers, many people wonder if the flu is really such a serious illness. What is the benefit of the vaccine, especially since some people can still get the flu despite being vaccinated? Could you get the flu from the vaccine? If you get the Covid vaccine, do you still need the flu shot?

To guide us through these questions and more, I spoke with CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician, public health expert, and professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health. from George Washington University. She is also the author of “Lifelines: A Physician’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health”.

The flu shot lowers the chance of serious illness and can reduce the chance of getting the flu, said Dr. Leana Wen.

CNN: Is the flu a serious illness? What symptoms do people experience?

Dr. Leana Wen: It certainly can be serious. the CDC estimates that flu caused between 9 and 41 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 52,000 deaths annually in the US between 2010 and 2020.

flu symptoms They include fever, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, cough, and runny nose. Many people recover within several days, but some may still feel unwell for up to 10 days to two weeks after symptoms start. Some will develop complications, such as sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, and swelling of the brain. The flu can also exacerbate underlying medical conditions; for example, people with chronic lung and heart disease may see their conditions worsen due to the flu.

Even generally healthy people can get very sick from the flu. However, those particularly susceptible to serious outcomes include those over the age of 65, young children under the age of 2, pregnant people, and people with underlying medical conditions.

CNN: What is the benefit of the vaccine, especially since some people can get the flu despite being vaccinated?

Wen: The flu shot does two things. First and foremost, it reduces the chance of serious illness, that is, being hospitalized or dying. Second, it can also reduce the chance of getting the flu.

In a sense, this is not very different from the Covid-19 vaccine. The most important reason to get vaccinated against the flu and coronavirus is to prevent serious illness. New data published in the latest morbidity and mortality report from the CDC shows this year’s flu shot reduces the risk of hospitalization by approximately 50%. A 2018 study found that people vaccinated against the flu were 59% less likely to be admitted to the ICU due to the flu compared to those who were not vaccinated.

Vaccine effectiveness can vary depending on how well the vaccine is matched to circulating influenza strains. the CDC citations Vaccine effectiveness against “medically managed disease” ranges from 23% to 61%, depending on the year and the match between the vaccine and the strain. It’s true, then, that you could get a flu shot and still get the flu. But the vaccine reduces the chance of that happening and, more importantly, it reduces the chance that you’ll end up very sick.

Another thing to consider is that there are many other viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms. The flu vaccine helps protect against viral infections caused by influenza, but there are many other causes of viral syndromes, including adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, parainfluenza, and others. These other viruses are also easily spread and there are no vaccines against them. I often hear patients say that they once got the flu the same year they got the flu shot and that’s why they don’t want to get vaccinated again. But when I ask them if they were actually diagnosed with the flu or if they just had flu-like symptoms, they would answer the latter.

CNN: Should children and pregnant people get a flu shot too?

Wen: Absolutely. These are groups particularly vulnerable to serious outcomes, so it is very important that they receive the flu vaccine.

A study found that the flu vaccine reduces children’s risk of severe, life-threatening influenza by 75%. Other found it cut flu-related emergency department visits in half in children.

Similar results are found in people who are pregnant. not only the the flu vaccine protects the pregnant personIf the vaccine is given during pregnancy, it also helps protect your baby from the flu during the first few months of life. That’s important, because the flu shot isn’t available to babies until they’re 6 months or older.

CNN: Could you get the flu from the vaccine?

Wen: No. The flu shot is a inactivated vaccine, which means that it does not contain the live virus and therefore cannot cause the flu. It is also a very well tolerated vaccine, with the most common side effect being discomfort at the injection site that goes away after a day.

CNN: If you received the Covid-19 vaccine, do you still need the flu shot?

Wen: Yes. Different vaccines target different viruses. The Covid vaccine helps protect against Covid, but does not protect against the flu, and vice versa. You can receive the Covid vaccine (or bivalent reinforcement) at the same time you get the flu shot, just at a different injection site.

CNN: Some people have been waiting until later in the flu season to get a flu shot. Is this a good idea?

Wen: At this point, no, because it is now clear that this flu season is starting earlier than usual. Cases are already high and it takes about two weeks to reach optimal immune protection after vaccination. I encourage people who have not yet received the flu shot to get one now.

CNN: What should people know about flu treatments?

Wen: Most cases of the flu can be treated symptomatically, which means patients rest, hydrate, and receive treatment for symptoms that arise, such as fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. there’s also antiviral treatments available. These are really important for people who are at high risk of serious flu complications and/or who are very sick. The sooner these treatments are started, the better. An oral drug, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), can also be given to patients who are not at high risk, within 48 hours of the onset of their illness.

I encourage everyone to have a flu plan, just as you should have a Covid plan. Ask your doctor ahead of time if you should receive Tamiflu or other antiviral treatment. Learn how you can get tested and where you can access treatment, including after hours and on weekends.

CNN: How can people avoid getting the flu?

Wen: Influenza spreads mainly through droplets — If an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets can land on another person nearby. It is also possible for droplets to land on a surface, from which someone becomes infected after touching it and then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes.

We can help reduce the spread of the flu by staying away from others while we have symptoms. We should all cough or sneeze into our elbow or tissue and wash our hands often, even after touching high-touch surfaces. People particularly vulnerable to serious outcomes should consider wearing a mask to reduce the chance of contracting viral illnesses like the flu. And, of course, get vaccinated!

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