October 24, 2006 > Flu Season is Upon Us – Protect Yourself
Flu Season is Upon Us – Protect Yourself
Flu Shots Available in Late October
by Washington Hospital
There are a great deal of old wives’ tales out there about what we should and shouldn’t do to prevent getting sick. Don’t let yourself become victim to the one about the flu vaccine.
According to Dr. Clair Segui, a family practice physician at Washington Clinic/Newark, a common misconception about the flu vaccine is that it simply doesn’t work. This, she says, couldn’t be more false.
“There is a myth that the flu shot does not work, but scientific studies show that it’s effective within the range of 70 to 90 percent,” Dr. Segui explains.
“The three top viruses are in the vaccine, but there are hundreds of other viruses that may cause flu-like symptoms.”
Each year, Dr. Segui says, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) performs a study to identify the major viruses that will most likely cause the flu.
“Every year, the strains of the virus change,” she says. “There are hundreds of different kinds of flu virus, and the CDC does studies to check which viruses are prevalent each year.”
Another common misinterpretation is that you are immune to the flu immediately upon receiving a vaccination, according to Dr. Segui. In reality the flu shot causes antibodies to begin to develop and it may take up to two weeks before the antibodies have developed enough to protect against the flu. This is why it’s important to get the flu shot at the beginning of the flu season before you’ve had a chance to acquire the virus. The flu season usually begins in October and peaks in November or December. Dr. Segui recommends that people receive a flu shot in October.
“The vaccine’s efficacy lasts for the whole flu season,” Dr. Segui says. “Once you produce the particular antibodies for the current year, you should be protected for that season.”
There are two different means of receiving the flu vaccine. The most common is through injection of the vaccine, which contains killed viruses. The flu shot is expected to be available at all the Washington Clinic sites in Fremont, Newark, Warm Springs, and Union City beginning later this month. According to Dr. Segui, so far this year there has been no indication of a shortage that would cause the federal government to limit who can receive the vaccine.
There is also a nasal spray form of the vaccine, which is available in retail pharmacies and grocery store settings. This form of the vaccine contains a live, weakened form of the flu viruses, and therefore may only be given to healthy individuals between the ages of 5 and 49 years old who are not pregnant.
There are certain high risk groups for whom receiving the vaccine is especially important. Likewise, there are certain groups that should not receive the vaccine.
High risk groups that should receive the vaccine include:
- People over the age of 50
- Infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old
- Health care workers
- Individuals with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems and their caretakers
- Elderly in nursing homes
Those who should not receive the vaccine include:
Infants less than 6 months of age
- Moderately to severely ill individuals suffering from high-grade fever
- Those with an allergy to eggs
- Those who have had a previous reaction to flu shot
- Individuals with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), an acute disease of the peripheral nervous system in which the nerves in the arms and legs become inflamed and stop working
Symptoms of the flu are many times confused with the common cold, its less virulent cousin, but the flu stands outs in its rapid onset and severity.
“The flu is transmitted person to person by coughing, sneezing or touching something containing the flu virus,” Dr. Segui says. “A person is infectious even one day before the symptoms develop and up to five days after.
Symptoms can include low-grade fever, dry cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and body aches. The flu comes on suddenly. Unlike the common cold, the flu hits you like a brick wall.”
Fortunately, if you are unlucky enough to contract the flu, there are some options to help protect others and potentially shorten your own suffering. Within the first 48 hours, if you are reasonably sure you have the flu, Dr. Segui recommends visiting a clinic or your doctor’s office to receive a prescription anti-viral medication that will work to reduce the number of days you are sick. She cautions that it must be given within 48 hours of getting sick.
If you do get sick, she says: “Stay home from work or school, avoid doing any errands to prevent other people from getting the flu. Clean your hands, avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth – for the sake of protecting other people.”
Dr. Segui says some people who have never had the flu don’t think it’s a serious disease, when in fact the flu can have serious risks, including pneumonia or pneumonia-related complications, other types of upper-respiratory infections and even death. Most of those who die from flu-related complications are 65 years and older.
“I would suggest that everybody get the flu vaccine that can get it,” Dr. Segui says.
To learn more about Washington Hospital’s facilities, visit www.whhs.com and click on “Our Facilities.”
Get a Flu Shot Now!
To make an appointment to receive your flu shot, call the clinic closest to you: Washington Clinic/Newark: (510) 797-7535 Washington Clinic/Warm Springs: (510) 651-2371 or (408) 946-6443 Nakamura Clinic, Union City: (510) 487-6000
(Washington Clinic/Fremont is a walk-in only urgent care clinic located on the second floor of the Washington West building at 2500 Mowry Ave.)