RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Flu season has begun. So far this year the flu appears to be similar to last year. It’s beginning with the common H3N2 strain and we are expecting the H1N1 to dominate the season soon.
This year’s shot appears to be a good match for the predominant virus strains and should provide good protection. If you have not gotten your shot yet, it is still not too late.
- Tell us about this year’s flu season.
The flu season will likely peak in February but we should see cases beginning to pick up in the next several weeks. We see significant numbers of cases between December and March. It is also not uncommon to see some cases as late as May. This year’s vaccine contains the strains currently circulating, which makes it a good match and the vaccine supply is also good this year, with more than 131 million doses available.
How effective a vaccine is depends on how good a match it is to the strains of flu virus circulating that year. Most years, the vaccine is between 40 percent and 60 percent effective, according to the CDC. This year the vaccine appears to be a very good match based on surveillance by the CDC thus far.
Last year the flu really picked up at the beginning of the new year and this season appears to be quite similar
- When you get a flu shot how long does it take to become effective enough to protect you from flu?
The CDC recommends that anyone six months of age and older get a flu shot. Once you get a flu shot it takes 7-10 days to develop immunity. The shot stimulates your immune system to make antibodies that will recognize and attack the flu virus when you are exposed to the flu. If you get the shot, it is likely that you will not get the flu, and if you do, it will be much milder and shorter in duration. One change this year is that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices does not recommend that the nasal spray vaccine be used by anyone, because it seems less effective than a shot
- What are the risks of NOT getting a flu shot?
In a typical flu season, flu complications — including pneumonia — send more than 200,000 Americans to the hospital. Death rates linked to flu vary annually, but have gone as high as 49,000 in a year, according to the CDC. The very old and the very young are at highest risk. Those with chronic disease such as diabetes, lung disease and heart disease are a particularly high risk for flu and its complications.