Get Your Flu Shot!

THE BEST WAY TO (NOT) DEAL WITH FLU THIS WINTER? GET A FLU SHOT!

By Richard Larew, MD, Larew Internal Medicine

The ounce of prevention found in a small vial of flu vaccine is indeed worth a pound of cure. As we head into flu season, it’s crucial to remember that influenza, while common, can range in severity from mild to moderate (“hit me like a truck”) to life-threatening. The influenza virus can cause serious complications like pneumonia, which can exacerbate heart disease (congestive heart failure), lung disease (COPD or asthma) and interfere with blood sugar control in diabetic patients. The best way to prevent these complications or reduce their severity: the flu shot. For the shot to be effective, you have to get it!

Tracking the influenza virus

This year, flu season has thankfully had an understated start. Only Louisiana is reporting a high level of flu activity, five additional states near the Gulf of Mexico are reporting moderate activity, and the remaining 44 states, including Iowa, are experiencing low or minimal activity. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cautions that parts of the country are seeing early increases in activity.

A good year to get a flu shot

The early data indicate that this year’s flu shots are proving effective in preventing this highly contagious upper respiratory infection. According to the CDC, from the end of September to beginning of November, virtually all of identified influenza illnesses have resulted from the viruses protected against in regular and high-dose vaccines…so there’s ample reason to be sure and get your flu shot.

The medical scientists who try to predict the most common influenza virus strains annually are on target this year, identifying:

  • A(H1N1)pdm09-like
  • A(H3N2)-like
  • B (Victoria lineage)
  • B (Yamagata lineage)

The “regular dose” injectable quadrivalent vaccine protects against all four influenza strains. The “high dose” trivalent vaccine, recommended for people age 65 and older, protects against the first three strains only, but contains four times as much antigen for each.

We’ve selected the vaccines used at Larew Internal Medicine with care, based on the most current data for influenza virus strains. Patients will receive either the “regular dose” Fluarix Quadrivalent vaccine manufactured by GSK, or the Fluzone “high dose” trivalent vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur.

Side effects are mild and highly treatable

Several patients have reported soreness at the injection site, the most common side effect of the influenza vaccine, experienced more frequently with the high dose vaccine. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can help relieve the soreness.

Your best shot for a flu-free winter

There is no question that the most effective way to minimize the risk of influenza is to get your shot. You will not only lessen your chance of experiencing serious complications which can result in hospitalization, even death but reduce the risk of spreading the flu to your family and friends.

Last year 51.6% of eligible Iowans got a flu shot.  And while I’ve been gratified to see numerous patients coming into Larew Internal Medicine for their flu shot this season, my goal won’t be met until 100% of my patients are immunized. So if you already received your influenza vaccine – thank you!  If not, stop in at the office as soon as you can. Administering the vaccine takes just a few minutes. We will have you immunized and on your way in no time at all.

I can’t emphasize it enough. Get the flu shot for you – and stay healthy this winter. Get the flu shot for your family and friends – and help them stay healthy as well. To paraphrase a famous tagline from Nike – just get it!

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