The Importance of a Flu Vaccine in 2020
The flu shot, also known as the influenza vaccine, is a safe and effective injection that helps prevent you from getting seasonal flu. There are four main types of flu virus: A, B, C and D, with the A and B viruses commonly leading to "flu season" in the United States. Each type has different strains that can change every year. A flu vaccine is developed each year to target circulating strains.
Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to life-threatening. Typical cases of the flu can last from three to five days with a cough lingering for up to three weeks.
Flu symptoms include the following:
- A quick onset of feeling ill
- Muscle/body aches
- Sore throat
Some people (often children) may also experience a stuffy nose, vomiting or diarrhea. Also, it's important to note that not everyone will necessarily experience a fever with the flu.
Should you get a flu shot?
Yes. The flu shot is typically between 19 percent and 60 percent effective in preventing illness, according to the CDC. If you have had the flu once, you can get it again, which is why it is important to get a flu shot every year. The types of flu (typically of the A or B types) vary each year, and the vaccine is developed to best match the currently circulating strains. The only people who should not get the flu shot every year are those with a life-threatening allergy to ingredients in the vaccine (such as a severe egg allergy), patients with GBS (or Guillain-Barré Syndrome) and children six months or younger.
Why get the flu shot?
A flu shot can help to keep you from getting the flu, lessen the severity of symptoms and reduce the chances of needing hospitalization if you do get the flu. The flu is highly contagious and spreads easily through droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing. The flu virus can also spread through direct contact with an infected person, like sharing a drinking glass. Flu can be transmitted before a person has symptoms of being ill and up to five days after someone no longer has symptoms. You can be exposed to the flu virus without knowing it, and a flu shot provides you with protection.
Benefits of the Flu Shot
- Decreases your likelihood of getting the flu
- Reduces the severity of symptoms if you get the flu
- Lessens chance of complications if you get the flu
- Protects high-risk individuals such as the elderly, pregnant women and chronically ill people by limiting the overall number of cases and exposure
- Protects those who are unable to get a vaccine by limiting the overall number of cases and exposure
Why is the flu shot important?
Millions of people get the flu and tens of thousands die from it every year. The flu vaccine can protect you from becoming ill this season, but it also helps protect those who are at high risk for flu complications or those who are unable to receive the vaccine.
Adults 65 years and older, young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women and people with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS or cancer are all at an increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening complications from the seasonal flu. Complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections and sinus infections. Some complications can lead to hospitalizations and even death.
You can protect yourself and others by getting a flu shot.
What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?
The flu and COVID-19 are both easily transmitted respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Flu and COVID-19 have many overlapping symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue and muscle or body aches. During flu season, it may be difficult to know if someone who is ill has COVID-19 or the flu. Testing will often be necessary.
Importance of a Flu Vaccine During COVID-19
COVID-19 has placed a large strain on healthcare systems across the globe. Once flu cases start rising, medical systems will face increased patient volumes and pressure. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 but the flu vaccine is readily available. The flu vaccine can reduce the number of people who get the flu as well as lessen flu symptoms and severe illness for those who do get the flu. Fewer flu cases will alleviate strain on the healthcare system and allow medical professionals to continue to care for patients affected by COVID-19. The importance of a flu shot during COVID-19 cannot be understated. You can protect yourself and others by getting a flu shot.
When should you get a flu shot?
It's advised to get the shot in the fall in the United States, or generally before flu season in your area. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up full protection from the flu. While flu cases are detected year-round in the United States, flu activity usually ramps up in fall and runs through the spring, peaking from December through February.
Schedule a visit with your primary provider or visit any Reid Health Urgent Care location to get your flu shot. It is quick and easy and can help keep you and others healthy this flu season!