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HealthBeat 4: Flu shot facts from the CDC

It’s fall, which means flu season is here. Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, flu hospitalizations were the highest in decades.

In the 2017-2018 flu season, more than 80,000 people in the United States, including 180 children, died last season because of the flu. The CDC also says about 900,000 were hospitalized. After having one of the worst flu seasons on record, health officials are urging Americans to get the flu shot early this year. “By October end of each year patients should be vaccinated,” said Dr. Ashlesha Kaushik.

Flu season occurs in the fall and winter; peaking anywhere from late November through March. The Centers for Disease Control recommends yearly flu vaccines for people six months and older. The nasal spray form of the vaccine is back this year for patients two years and older. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the best vaccine for your child is the shot. “[The American Academy of Pediatrics] does not recommend live attenuated influenza vaccine as the first choice,” said Dr. Kaushik, “They do prefer inactivated intramuscular injection over the nasal vaccine for children because they are not sure about the efficacy this year; because of its poor efficacy in the past seasons they just want all children to be safe. And that is why they are just recommending the inactivated vaccine for all children as the preferred choice.”

Dr. Kaushik says the challenge with the flu viruses is that it evolves year to year. “They change their combinations. Their outer capsule keeps changing so that’s why the last year’s flu is different from this year’s flu, next year will be different from this year,” said Dr. Kaushik, “Because the virus just keeps rearranging itself.”

While the effectiveness of the flu shot varies year to year, experts say it’s still your best bet against getting the virus. “It is the best preventive measure that we have against the flu and flu can be devastating. It can be life-threatening,” said Dr. Kaushik, “And to prevent deaths and severe disease from the flu this is our best choice.”

A common misconception is that women, who are pregnant, can’t get the flu vaccine. However, the CDC recommends all pregnant women be vaccinated. A new six-year study found the vaccine reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with the flu by 40-percent. It was equally protective for women who had other medical problems and during all three trimesters.

Matt Breen

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