Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. Every flu season is different and the influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
Over a period of 31 seasons, between 1976 and 2007, the Centers for Disease Control estimate flu-associated deaths in the United States range from 3,000 to 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.
The ‘seasonal flu season’ in the United States can begin as early as October and as late as May. During that time, flu viruses are circulating throughout the population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine, either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine, is the best way to reduce the chances of getting the seasonal flu. As more people receive vaccinations against the flu, the ability of the virus to spread throughout a community is greatly reduced.
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three main influenza viruses that research indicates will most likely be prevalent during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.
There are two types of vaccines:
- The ‘flu shot’ — an inactivated vaccine containing the dead virus is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is safe for use in people older than six months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
- The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. This vaccine is approved for use in healthy people, ages two through 49, who are not pregnant.
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against the influenza viruses in the vaccine develop in the body.
The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against influenza as soon as flu season vaccine becomes available in their community. Influenza seasons are unpredictable and can begin in early fall or winter.
Flu vaccines are produced by private manufacturers. They usually begin processing shipments in August and continue throughout September and October until all vaccines are distributed.
Doctors and nurses are encouraged to begin vaccinating their patients as soon as the vaccine is available in their areas.
A new flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing.
It is a requirement for all Air Force members to get vaccinated.
For more information, or to schedule a flu team visit for your unit, contact Maj. Lorraine Assumma or Maj. Marcos Sandovalgarcia at 951-655-6261. To view more information about influenza, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2012-2013.htm