Don’t underestimate the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu, a virus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness and kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year. The number of affected individuals in San Diego tripled compared to last year, county officials said.

Health experts recommend getting the flu vaccine earlier in the season because it can take a couple of weeks to become effective.

Flu season can begin in October and last until March. Those who feel sick before that have probably caught a common cold due to fluctuating temperatures.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the vaccine for people 6 months of age and older, those at the highest risk are strongly advised to ask their doctor about it, including children, pregnant women, adults older than 65, and individuals with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

There have been 221 reported cases in San Diego so far. One patient died, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. Two children were among the 87 deaths caused by influenza during the 2016-17 flu season.

“It’s extremely important that people get vaccinated,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, as quoted by Fox 5 San Diego “Influenza can generate severe complications, including death, especially for people with underlying medical conditions.”

Flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, according to the CDC. The virus has caused from 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year.

Flu season 2017, Influenza 2017, Flu vaccine
CDC recommends people to renew their flu vaccine each year. Image credit: Women Fitness

This month’s free flu-shot clinics are sponsored by the HHSA and locations can be found by calling 211 San Diego. Flu vaccines are also available at pharmacies. In addition to getting vaccinated, experts recommend frequent hand washing with soap – alcohol-based hand sanitizers might not be as effective –, keeping commonly touched surfaces clean, and avoiding touching the eyes.

The CDC recommends a flu vaccine every season

Flu vaccines are designed to trigger the development of antibodies in charge of protecting an individual against infection with the viruses contained in the shot. Trivalent vaccines prevent infection with influenza A viruses H1N1 and H3N2, and an influenza B virus.

The quadrivalent vaccines are designed to protect against the already mentioned viruses plus an additional B virus.

The CDC recommends a flu shot every season because the body’s immune response declines and needs to be improved every year. The second reason is that experts annually review the formulation of the flu vaccine due to the viruses’ constant changes. It is important to remember that every flu season is different and affects people differently but even those who consider themselves healthy can contract the virus.

Benefits of flu vaccination

The effectiveness of the vaccine depends on health status and the match between the viruses circulating in the person’s community and those used to make the shot. If the two sets of viruses are not closely related, the vaccine’s effectiveness diminishes, but the CDC assures it will still protect against influenza illness.

Not only does the annual vaccination reduce the risk of getting sick with flu, but it also helps prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Those with chronic health conditions are strongly recommended to get vaccinated because the shot leads to lower rates of cardiac events. Flu vaccination helps reduce hospitalizations among nearly 80 percent of diabetes patients and 52 percent of those who suffer from chronic lung disease.

Since mothers who get vaccinated pass antibodies on to their babies during pregnancy, the flu shot helps protect the child after birth from the virus.

Getting vaccinated also allows you to protect your loved ones, especially the most vulnerable.

Most Americans avoid the flu shot

According to CDC figures, only ten states have 50-55 percent immunization, which might explain the reason why flu cases have tripled this season. About 33 percent of the population in 38 states gets vaccinated.

Some people avoid the flu shot because they believe they might catch the virus from the vaccine, but that’s just a myth. Dr. Pritish Tosh, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, told the Daily Mail that the influenza vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus. If you catch the virus right after getting the flu shot, it’s just a coincidence.

Dr. Tosh admitted that the psychological factor played a significant role in people’s decisions because humans tend to make weird connections. He reassured that research has shown no risk at all and emphasized that doctors have improved knowledge about the vaccine over the past decades.

Those who do get sick from flu after getting vaccinated can be sure that their symptoms will be milder and they will be at a much lower risk of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions.

Source: Fox 5 San Diego