Flu Vaccination: Best Protection

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is urging Georgians to get vaccinated against flu. While flu can vary from season to season, the single most effective way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications is the flu vaccine.

“Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It is especially important for the elderly and very young to get a flu shot. And, when given to women during pregnancy, the vaccine has shown to protect both mother and baby up to 6 months old from flu.”

The holidays, with parties and get-togethers that will usher in 2016, are just around the corner.  It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, so it’s important to take preventive measures now. Flu activity currently is low in Georgia, but it often spikes in late November or early December.

Last year’s flu season was particularly severe because the predominate virus, H3N2, changed and was no longer well matched with the vaccine. The vaccine for 2015-2016 does contain the new H3N2 strain so while experts are hopeful it is a good match, flu can be very unpredictable.

“Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new strains to appear each year,” said Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of Health Protection for the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, it can still help lessen the severity and length of flu if you do get sick.”

Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, chills and fatigue. One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and malaise that comes on quickly.

There are other things you can do to help protect against flu, including:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing. Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
  • Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.
  • If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work.
  • See a doctor to get a prescription for antiviral drugs, if it is deemed appropriate. Antiviral drugs are most effective within one or two days of symptoms appearing.

Due to a manufacturing delay, there currently is a nationwide shortage of FluMist®.  DPH is working to ensure its school based flu program and other flu clinics have FluMist® available, but there may be gaps. There is no shortage of vaccine for flu shots. You can check availability of flu vaccine near you by clicking on http://flushot.healthmap.org/.

You can also track flu activity in Georgia at dph.georgia.gov/flu-activity-georgia. The page is updated weekly. For more information about flu and how to prevent it, log onto http://www.flu.gov/.