October marks the beginning of a new flu season, with the likelihood of cases already occurring in Louisiana and other places, federal statistics show.
The advice of federal health officials remains clear and consistent: Take the flu vaccine as soon as possible, especially if you are pregnant or have asthma or other underlying illness that makes you more likely to get worse.
Make no mistake: The complications of the flu are terrible, says Dr. William Schaffner, a specialist in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, who is part of a committee that advises federal health officials on immunization practices.
"As we get older, more of us get heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, asthma," says Schaffner. "These diseases predispose us to complications from influenza ̵
. are “any and every 6 months and older in the United States to get vaccinated every year. "People 65 and older and pregnant women, along with patients who have major medical issues, should hurry to take this picture, if they haven't already,
Within one typical year, about two-thirds of people over 65 get vaccinated against the flu, studies show, compared with 45% of adults overall and 55% to 60% of children. But only about half of pregnant women get vaccinated, and the immunization rate for people with chronic illnesses ranges from about 30% to 40%.
Take the case of Giojo O & # 39; Neil, a 55-year-old radio and personality presenter at a music show in Orlando, Florida, who was diagnosed with asthma in 2004 at the age of 40. For years, she has not been given the flu vaccine, thinking that her healthy diet, intense exercise and overall fitness will be sufficiently protective.
"We've been skating for many years," says O & # 39; Neal, "and then, finally, in 2018 – boom! Hit me and hit me hard." She had been out of work for almost two weeks and could barely move. She was extremely nauseous and had excruciating headaches and body aches, she says. "I spent a lot of time just sitting on my sofa feeling unhappy."
O & # 39; Neal says it takes a lot to "shut it down", but this flu fight definitely did. Even more upsetting, she says, she passed the virus on to her sister, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fortunately, neither she nor her sister had to be hospitalized, but they certainly worry about it.
"We have lung problems and worry about breathing, so the flu creates a lot of anxiety," O'Neill says. This year she's not taking any chances: she's already got her flu shot.
This is the absolute right decision, says Dr. Miley Khan, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and national spokesman for the American Lung Association.
If generally healthy people get infected with the flu, they may feel sick for a week or more, she says. But it can take longer for someone with underlying pulmonary conditions to recover from the flu – three to four weeks. "What I worry most about these patients, Han says, is hospitalization and respiratory failure."
In fact, Han says, 92% of adults are hospitalized for flu at least a major chronic condition such as diabetes, asthma, or kidney or liver disease.
When people with underlying pulmonary conditions become infected with the flu, she says, “the virus goes straight to the lungs and can create a situation where it is difficult to breathe even more difficult. "
Other chronic health conditions – diabetes, HIV and cancer, among them – worsen the immune system, Han explains, causing people with these conditions to be unable to achieve a stable response to the flu virus without
Even many of her own patients do not realize how bad the flu case can be, Han says.
"People I'm often told, "It's not me. I've never had the flu. I'm not at risk and I'm not around and who can give me cause flu. "
O & # 39; Neal says has always considered that it was not compromised – while the flu does not flattened.
Healthy pregnant women are also more prone to complications and hospitalization if infected with influenza and urged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OB-GYN to be vaccinated against influenza and whooping cough. However, the majority of study mothers in the US – 65% – are not immunized against these two diseases, according to a recent CDC Vital Signs report.
Some women mistakenly worry that the flu vaccine is not safe for them or their babies. "I think some of the safety fears are certainly understandable, but they are misinformed," says Dr. Alicia Fry, Head of CDC's Epidemiology and Prevention Division
The evidence is clear, Fry says : The vaccine is extremely safe, and she cites a recent study showing that immunization against the flu reduces the risk of influenza Hospice in pregnant women by 40%.
Concerning concerns that a woman's vaccination may not be safe for the developing fruit, Fry says the opposite. When a pregnant woman is immunized, antibodies that fight the flu virus cross the placenta and can protect her baby during those critical months before and after birth.
"This can prevent 70% of flu-related illnesses with the baby, ”says Fry. "So this is double protection: Mom is protected and baby is protected." Babies cannot receive the flu vaccine by themselves until they are 6 months old.
The vaccine will not protect against all strains of influenza virus that may circulate. But Schaffner says the blow is still worth it this year and every year.
"Although not perfect, the vaccine we have today actually prevents many diseases completely," he says. "And even if you get the flu, it's likely to be less severe and less likely to develop complications."