OCT 10, 2018 04:03 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
OCT 12, 2018
Videos
OCT 12, 2018
Don't Mess With Microbes
Researchers demonstrate why antibiotics should not be used casually....
OCT 19, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 19, 2018
A Newly Discovered Bacterial Toxin Reveals More About Bacterial Warfare
Even bacteria have to use self-defense. Some deploy toxins that they can use to dominate other microbial competitors....
OCT 19, 2018
Videos
OCT 19, 2018
Latin American Coffee Harvests Threatened by Fungus
A fungus called hemileia vastatrix causes a serious plant disease called coffee leaf rust....
NOV 12, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 12, 2018
Some Bacteria Gain Resistance Even Without Exposure to Antibiotics
Most bacteria are harmless, some are even beneficial to us. But some of the dangerous ones pose a real threat to public health....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Infections in Tattoos
Contracting an infection when getting a tattoo is always a major concern. Consumers should be aware of the risk of developing infections with bloodborne pa...
DEC 11, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 11, 2018
Dust with High Levels of Triclosan has More Antibiotic Resistance Genes
Researchers have found that some dust contains high amounts of a common antimicrobial agent called triclosan....
Loading Comments...