Welcome to this 12 months’s flu season.
This 12 months’s flu strains are starting to unfold throughout the United States, in keeping with new information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been no less than 880,000 circumstances of the flu, practically 7,000 hospitalizations, and tragically, 360 flu-related deaths this fall, together with one baby. Not since 2009, throughout the top of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, have there been so many early-season flu circumstances.
Despite these numbers, many individuals marvel if the flu is known as a severe sickness. What are the advantages of the vaccine, particularly if some individuals get the flu regardless of being vaccinated? Can you get the flu from a vaccine? If you get the Covid vaccine, do you continue to want the flu vaccine?
To information us by these and different questions, I spoke with CNN medical analyst Dr. Liana Wen is an emergency doctor, public well being professional, and professor of well being coverage and administration at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. He can be the creator of Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Battle for Public Health.
CNN: Is the flu a severe sickness? What signs do individuals expertise?
Dr. Liana Wen: It can actually be severe. The CDC estimates that between 2010 and 2020, this can lead to between 9 million and 41 million sicknesses in the US, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 52,000 deaths.
Flu signs embody fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough and runny nostril. Most individuals get better inside just a few days, however some might really feel unwell for 10 days to 2 weeks after the onset of signs. Some develop issues resembling sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and mind irritation. The flu may also irritate underlying medical situations – for instance, individuals with power lung and coronary heart situations might expertise a worsening of their situations because of the flu.
The flu could make wholesome individuals very sick. However, these at notably excessive threat embody these 65 and older, kids below 2 years previous, pregnant ladies, and individuals with underlying medical situations.
CNN: What are the advantages of the vaccine, particularly if some individuals get the flu even when they get the shot?
Wen: The flu vaccine does two issues. First and foremost, it reduces your possibilities of getting critically ailing, that means hospitalization or demise. Second, it may well additionally scale back your possibilities of getting the flu.
It’s not that completely different from the Covid-19 vaccine in some methods. The major purpose to get vaccinated towards each the flu and the coronavirus is to stop extreme sickness. New information launched in the CDC’s newest morbidity and mortality report present that this 12 months’s flu vaccine diminished the threat of hospitalization by about 50%. A 2018 examine discovered that flu-related ICU admissions had been 59% decrease amongst individuals who had been vaccinated towards the flu than those that had not been vaccinated.
The effectiveness of the vaccine can range relying on how properly the vaccine is appropriate with the circulating strains of influenza. The CDC cites the vaccine’s effectiveness towards “medically acquired illness” as 23% to 61%, relying on the 12 months and the vaccine and pressure match. So it is true you can get the flu shot and nonetheless get the flu. But the vaccine reduces your possibilities, and extra importantly, it makes you much less prone to get critically ailing.
Another factor to bear in mind is that there are lots of different viruses that may trigger flu-like signs. The flu vaccine helps shield towards viral infections brought on by influenza, however there are lots of different causes of viral syndromes, together with adenovirus, rhinovirus, parainfluenza, and others. These different viruses additionally unfold simply and there are not any vaccines for them. I usually hear of sufferers getting the flu the 12 months they obtained the flu shot, so they do not wish to get vaccinated once more. But after I ask them in the event that they actually have been recognized with the flu or if they simply have flu-like signs, they are saying the latter.
CNN: Should kids and pregnant ladies additionally get the flu vaccine?
Wen: Absolutely. These teams are at notably excessive threat, which is why it is so necessary that they get the flu vaccine.
One examine discovered that the flu vaccine can scale back kids’s threat of extreme, life-threatening flu by 75%. Another reduce flu-related emergency room visits in half in these kids.
Similar outcomes are seen in pregnant ladies. The flu vaccine not solely protects the pregnant girl, but when the vaccine is given throughout being pregnant, it may well assist shield the child from the flu in the first months of life. This is necessary as a result of the flu vaccine isn’t accessible for infants 6 months or older.
CNN: Can you get the flu from a vaccine?
Wen: A horse. The flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, which suggests it doesn’t include a reside virus and subsequently can’t trigger the flu. It can be a really well-tolerated vaccine, with the commonest facet impact being discomfort at the injection website that disappears after a day.
CNN: If you have had the Covid-19 vaccine, do you continue to want the flu shot?
Wen: Yes. Different vaccines goal completely different viruses. The covid vaccine helps shield towards covid however doesn’t shield towards the flu and vice versa. You can get the Covid vaccine (or bivalent booster) at the identical time as the flu vaccine at a distinct injection website.
CNN: Some individuals had been ready till flu season to get the flu shot. Is this a good suggestion?
Wen: In this case, no, as a result of this flu season has clearly began sooner than regular. Incidence is already excessive and it takes about two weeks to attain optimum immune safety after vaccination. I might encourage individuals who have not gotten the flu shot to get it now.
CNN: What should individuals learn about treating the flu?
Wen: Most circumstances of the flu might be handled symptomatically, that means sufferers relaxation, keep hydrated, and deal with rising signs with fever-reducing drugs resembling acetaminophen or ibuprofen. There are additionally antiviral medicine. These are particularly necessary for people who find themselves at excessive threat of extreme flu issues and/or extreme sickness. The earlier such therapy is began, the higher. An oral treatment known as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) might be given inside 48 hours of the onset of signs, even in low-risk sufferers.
I might encourage everybody to have a flu plan, simply as everybody should have a Covid plan. Ask your physician earlier than taking Tamiflu or different antiviral therapy. Find out find out how to get examined and the place you possibly can get therapy, together with after hours and weekends.
CNN: How can individuals keep away from getting the flu?
Wen: The flu is especially unfold by droplets — if an contaminated particular person coughs or sneezes, these droplets might be unfold onto another person close by. Droplets may also land on the floor, the place somebody touches it and then will get contaminated after touching their nostril, mouth, or eyes.
We will help scale back the unfold of the flu by staying away from others after we are symptomatic. We should all cough or sneeze into our elbow or a tissue and wash our palms steadily, together with after touching hard-to-touch surfaces. People who’re notably susceptible to severe penalties should take into account sporting a masks to cut back the probability of contracting viral sicknesses resembling the flu. And after all, get vaccinated!