Flu season is about to begin: Get your flu shot now.
That’s the message both the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sending to every American older than 6 months.
Nearly 60% of the flu cases reported to the CDC last flu season were people between 18 and 64. That figure proves even the healthiest can come down with the flu, says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
“Last year was an unfortunate reminder that no one is exempt from flu’s most severe consequences,” Schaffner said Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington.
The CDC’s recommendations about the flu vaccine are similar to last year’s, but there are a few updates.
If it’s available, children between 2 and 8 should get the live attenuated influenza vaccine, commonly known as FluMist, instead of the flu shot, the CDC says. The nasal spray flu vaccine includes four influenza virus strains, and seems to be the best protection for this age group for the 2014-10215 flu season.
Because it is a live vaccine, the nasal spray is not recommended for women who are, or think they may be, pregnant, and is only approved for people up to age 49.
For those at least 65, the federal health agency says a one-two-three punch is the best way to stay healthy all year long. The CDC recommends this age group be administered a high-dose flu shot, which gives stronger immune response and a greater protection against the flu.
It also recommends that those over 65 be given a two-dose series of pneumococcal vaccines — the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, followed by the traditional pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine about six months later.
One more reminder: The flu can be a deadly illness, so all pregnant women should get the flu shot. The flu shot can be given in any trimester, but the sooner a new mom is vaccinated, the better for the baby.
A flu shot will not protect you from Enterovirus D68, said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Although both are respiratory illnesses, they are totally different viruses. They could infect one individual at the same time; it’s rare, but it could happen, he said.
“The flu vaccine will prevent influenza virus and the influenza virus only,” Offit said. “Certainly we see a lot of mixed respiratory virus infections in our hospital. We’ll see often two viruses that are infecting at the same time. … That makes it all the more important that you get your flu vaccine.”
Offit stressed that parents should take the flu season seriously. Last year more than 100 youngsters died from influenza, and most of them were healthy at the time. Most had not had a flu shot, Offit said.
“When you look at vaccine preventable diseases in general, like the current measles outbreak, the vast majority of children are unvaccinated,” he said.
So when’s the best time to get vaccinated? Now, says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. Flu vaccines should be on their way to your doctor’s office.
“We are told by the manufacturers they will be bringing approximately 150 million doses of flu vaccine to the market,” Frieden said Thursday. “There are many different options out there. And there’s plenty of flu vaccine to go around.”