In the pandemic of COVID-19, health care has a new face given limitations on access of medical services and products. Although social distancing and health hygiene is at an all-time high, we still need to beware of the impact of the influenza season looming this winter. With personal awareness there may be less opportunity for influenza, but it will still be present and potentially deadly in combination with COVID. Here is some disease information that you should know.
Influenza is a respiratory infection that causes fever, cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion. Additional symptoms include headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. Although these complaints are similar to the common cold, the severity is typically much worse. Not only can the intensity be serious enough to cause weeks of lost work or school, but the infectiousness can be so powerful as to impact a workplace or school from a single source. Influenza can cause complications which kills thousands of Americans every year, more commonly those with chronic health problems, the elderly and very young, similar to the COVID-19. However, anyone can suffer a complication of this illness, sometimes requiring hospitalization with significant lost time from daily routines, or even resulting in death. Fortunately, there is treatment for influenza with early intervention, unlike COVID.
A severe outbreak may commonly last up to eight weeks regionally and can often infect one out of every three people in a community. Hand washing and hygiene are always important, but the single best prevention of influenza is the seasonal immunization. Appropriate for almost everyone six months or older, it is especially important for those with any chronic disease such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart, kidney or liver disease, and any kind of cancer. Also, those who are overweight or 50 and older are at a significant risk as well.
The influenza immunization recommendation from the CDC for the 2020-2021 season again includes trivalent and quadrivalent injectable vaccines. This year vaccines have been updated to match the expected circulating viruses and are provided as the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), the live attenuated nasal spray (LAIV4) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV).
For those interested, the updated protections for this year’s likely infections include:
Egg-based H1N1: A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.
Cell/recombinant H1N1: A/Hawaii/70/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus.
Egg-based H3N2: A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus.
Cell/recombinant H3N2: A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus.
B-Victoria lineage: B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus.
Annual flu vaccines are commonly covered by most health insurance programs at no cost to patients. These immunizations are usually readily available at county health clinics, most retail pharmacies, and many family doctor offices. Nobody knows when the flu will show up in any community, but is often seen as early as October. Of course, the sooner the administration, the more effective the immunization for the entire influenza season which may go well into the spring. It can take up to two full weeks to acquire immunity from the shot. Now is the time to prevent the flu! Immunize, and do not let the flu get YOU!
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine