RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As sure winter weather is coming, so is the flu. And this year the only means of prevention will be the shot — nasal sprays just won’t cut it.
How bad is this flu season going to be? Heath care experts are trying to figure that out now, and initial indications are that it this could be a bad year.
Every flu season is different. And how the flu affects one person may be quite different from how it affects another person.
Before the flu ever hits, researchers try to develop the most effective vaccine to deal with this year’s strain.
“We have three strains, the same as last year, and one of the (strains) is a different one,” says Dr. Rachael Hollifield of UNC’s Family Medicine and Pediatrics practice in Wakefield.
If you get the vaccine, remember its effects are not instantaneous.
“It takes 2 weeks to build up your immunity after you get the flu shot,” says Dr. Hollifield.
As the flu virus makes its way across the globe, researchers and health care professionals watch it carefully to see if it’s mutating, which would render the vaccine less effective.
“We hope for the best every year, but there is no way of knowing til the initial data comes out as to how effective the shot will be,” says Dr. Hollifield.
To try and gauge the flu’s severity when it hits here, health care professionals look at what happening in the Southern Hemisphere. For example, Australia has had more than 50 flu related deaths this year, compared to 27 last year.
“This summer in the Southern Hemisphere, where they had their winter, they had a hard flu season with this strain we call H3N2. It causes severe disease, particularly in people age 65 and older, said Dr. William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
One patient who showed up at UNC’s Wakefield location was Snow Barnes. She told CBS North Carolina, she is worried, so she’s taking the shot this year.
“I used to be against flu shots, but ever since I got some age on me, I figure I should get one every year to keep from getting the flu,” said Barnes.
And although doctors aren’t sure how effective the shot will be, the CDC says one thing that won’t work is the nasal spray.
“The nasal flu spray, which is a live virus, has not been effective at all and we are not recommending anyone get that,” said Hollifield.
Around this part of the country, we usually see flu cases starting to hit us in the first week or two of November, so if you want the shot, this would be the time to get ahead of the virus’s spread.
To dig deeper, use the CDC’s information on the current flu season. It contains information about what you need to know about the current season, as well as information from past seasons dating back to 2010
Here is more information on Flu shots in this link to the UNC Physician’s network.