Seasonal flu vaccine is good match to current circulating strains
By CAROLYN MASCHKE
Southwest Public Health District
Children and young adults seem to be hardest hit by influenza this season, but the good news is that the flu vaccine contains the right mix to be effective against the main strains of flu in circulation, says Southwest Georgia’s top Public Health official.
“By far, the majority of confirmed flu cases we are seeing in our area are Type A, although there have also been positive test results for Type B influenza,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. “The vaccine does target the right strains. We can say with confidence that it will help protect you against the circulating influenza strains.”
Each year, influenza experts analyze which flu strains are most likely to circulate in the coming season and develop a vaccine with the top three contenders, Grant said.
“But influenza viruses are very unpredictable and also mutate rapidly,” she said. “Some seasons the vaccines match well with the strains in circulation, while other seasons they don’t. This season, the vaccine appears to be a good match.”
Since it takes approximately two weeks for a vaccine to become fully effective, people who have been exposed to influenza after receiving the vaccine can still get sick during that two-week window, Grant said.
“But depending on how much immunity they have, they may not get as sick,” she said. “And getting the vaccine is your best protection against the flu.”
The most recent data available indicates there have been no deaths reported in Southwest Health District or in Georgia from the flu, although there have been hospitalizations, including a number of pediatric hospitalizations, Grant said.
Grant also stressed that it is important for those who are sick with flu to stay home until they are fever-free without medication for 24 hours, to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and to cover coughs or sneezes.
“These are ways to keep the influenza virus from spreading,” she said. “In addition, if someone in your household catches the flu, check with your healthcare provider about prescribing a medication called an antiviral that may prevent other members of your family from catching the infection.”
“But most importantly, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, it isn’t too late,” Grant said. “Flu season usually peaks in January or February, so it would be best not to put it off much longer. Check with your county health department or your healthcare provider. The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you are protected.”