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Give the New Flu Vaccine a Shot

Posted 7/17/2017 by UHBlog

Don’t let the flu bug you. Learn why you need a flu shot. Ask us.

Give the New Flu Vaccine a Shot

With flu season just around the corner, it's time for you to take action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 71 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

“The best way for our seniors to prevent getting the flu is to roll up their sleeves and get a flu shot,” says internal medicine specialist Delilah Armstrong, MD. “By getting vaccinated, older adults not only reduce the chance they will get the flu but may also reduce the disease’s severity and need for hospitalization for dangerous complications like pneumonia.”

Unfortunately, the elderly bear the greatest burden of severe flu complications due to age-related problems, such as a weakened immune system, as well as chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, pulmonary problems, cancer and heart disease.

Despite a strong recommendation by the CDC to have a yearly flu shot, some folks don’t get the flu vaccine because they mistakenly believe it sparks the illness.

“Not so,” Dr. Armstrong says. “The flu vaccine works by creating antibodies to fight the virus if you are exposed to it. It is not a live vaccine, so it can’t give you the flu. The flu vaccine is carefully formulated to protect you, your loved ones, caregivers and friends from getting and spreading the flu.”

At University Hospitals medical facilities, flu vaccines for the 2017 – 2018 season will become available in August and then throughout the fall and winter seasons. Dr. Armstrong advises people to begin receiving their flu vaccine as soon as it is offered.

“It takes about two weeks after you have your flu vaccine for immunity to set in,” she says. “We have to do everything we can to avoid flu complications in the elderly – which can lead to life-threatening illnesses.”

The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated to match circulating flu viruses. For the 2017 – 2018 flu season, three-component vaccines are recommended to contain:

  • An A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • An A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • A B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

If someone over the age of 65 does get the flu, it's important to seek medical help immediately, says Dr. Armstrong.

“If you experience flu symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, the sooner you see a medical professional, the better," she says. "We can administer anti-viral medications to minimize flu symptoms or detect any dangerous flu-related symptoms that must be immediately addressed.”

So, when scheduling your flu vaccine at a nearby UH facility, don’t think of it as getting a flu shot. Instead, think of it as installing virus protection software to avoid your body from getting hacked by a very nasty influenza bug.

Delilah Armstrong, MD, is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Heights Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Dr. Armstrong or any other doctor online.

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