OCT 10, 2018 4:03 PM PDT

It's Time for Your Annual Flu Shot

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The leaves are changing color, and there’s a chill in the air; it’s that time of year again - flu shot season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations are encouraging individuals aged six months and older to get a flu shot before the end of October. According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent flu infection. The flu can be particularly dangerous for the elderly and children, and getting a vaccination can stop the flu from causing death. Last year's season was particularly bad; around 80,000 people were killed by influenza.

There are other preventive measures recommended by the CDC, including keeping your hands clean by washing your hands correctly and by sneezing or coughing into your elbow instead of into your hand. People are also advised to stay home if they feel sick; don’t spread your illness to others at work or at school. 

If you do get sick, most flu treatments address the symptoms, which include fever (but not everyone with the flu gets a fever) as well as a sore throat, cough, congested nose, aches and chills, and fatigue. There are antiviral medications that might be prescribed in some cases, but antibiotics are not effective against a viral infection. Antibiotics only combat bacteria; the flu and common cold are both caused by viruses.

It’s important to get a flu shot every year because researchers design a flu vaccine against the strain of flu that is predicted to cause harm during the upcoming flu season, which changes from year to year. A lot of information and work goes into that prediction. Flu centers all over the world collect data throughout the year on influenza strains that are making people ill. It's all collected at five centers, one of which is at the CDC in Atlanta. Scientists at those centers monitor all of the data and meet a couple of times a year to make their forecasts.

A successful vaccine then has to be designed for the strain that’s been identified, and doses must be manufactured. Many times the scientists do well with the production of the seasonal vaccine, but sometimes the match isn’t as good as investigators hope. However, it’s still important to get the vaccine. Every year, millions are sickened, and thousands die from the flu.

Colorized, negative-stained TEM depicting a number of influenza virus particles. The influenza virus is a single-stranded RNA organism, and a member of the taxonomic family Orthomyxoviridae. / Image credit: CDC/ Dr. F. A. Murphy, Courtesy: Public Health Image Library

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases notes that in the US, around 31 percent of adults 50-64 years old and 47 percent of people over age 65 have a chronic health condition that raises the risk that they’ll have a complication from flu, like hospitalization, disability or death. The flu shot is free for people on Medicare.

Check out a webinar about the flu vaccine here.


Sources: CDC, Scientific AmericanNational Foundation for Infectious Diseases

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 05, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 05, 2019
Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount of circulating virus, restore their...
DEC 09, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 09, 2019
Researchers Rewire E. coli to Consume Carbon Dioxide
Milo et. al.   Researchers have genetically rewired the metabolism of Escherichia coli to be autotrophic, using formate (COOH) as a food sou...
DEC 12, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 12, 2019
Probiotics Treat Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury
Alcoholic liver injury is caused by overconsumption of alcohol, something that can lead to serious diseases such as liver steatosis, liver cirrhosis and li...
JAN 14, 2020
Microbiology
JAN 14, 2020
Bacterial Growth That is Truly Cultured
Scientists have learned that when certain bacteria are paired together, they create patterns that look like flowers....
FEB 23, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 23, 2020
Using Cranberries and Citrus to Remove Viruses From Food
Noroviruses can contaminate fresh produce and in developed nations, they are the most common cause of gastroenteritis....
FEB 23, 2020
Microbiology
FEB 23, 2020
COVID-19 Cases Rise Around the World
The world may be in the early stages of a pandemic, as the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 spreads around the world, causing an illness called COVID-19....
Loading Comments...