Flu season is in full swing. Here are answers to some of the biggest questions about the flu, vaccines and how to stay healthy through the whole season.
Should I still get vaccinated if I haven’t already?
While this season’s vaccine is less effective due to mutations in the predominant strain, the vaccine can still protect you from some strains of the flu. If you catch one of the strains not included in the vaccine, it may also make you illness less severe. Flu season can often last into the spring, and sooner you get vaccinated, the more effective it will be.
But can I get the flu from the vaccine?
No, you can’t. Flu vaccines are developed using dead or weakened viruses that allow your body to develop the antibodies needed to fight the infection, but that won’t actually cause the disease. Some vaccinations may also cause some side effects in some people.
Why isn’t the vaccine as effective as normal?
In order to have enough vaccine prepared for a flu season, researchers have to choose the strains of flu to protect against before the season begins. But flu viruses can change by way or antigenic drift or antigentic shift. As the viruses change, the antibodies developed naturally or with the help of the vaccine don’t protect against these new strains of the flu. So the vaccine that was created early last year doesn’t protect as effectively against what has come to be the predominant strain of the flu this season.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu is a respiratory illness, and it’s usually spread through the air by people coughing and sneezing. The most common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. The flu is generally much more severe than the common cold, but the symptoms can be similar. The flu tends to develop very quickly and can cause much more severe complications like pneumonia or bacterial infections. A test can be done in the first few days of infection that can determine if you have the flu or a cold.
How do I prevent spread of the flu?
The most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu is to get a vaccine if you haven’t already. Wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you do develop symptoms, stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the flu to those around you.