It is, once again, time to consider our health concerns as days are growing shorter. Social distancing and health hygiene may be beginning to wane as we become more complacent with pandemic precautions. We still need to beware of the influenza season once again this winter. Last year, our health awareness provided less opportunity for influenza, but it will still be present and potentially deadly once again this year, particularly if we let our guard down. Things 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. 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.
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 2021-2022 season includes only 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/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus;
*Cell/recombinant H1N1: A/Wisconsin/588/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus;
*Egg-based and cell/recombinant H3N2: A/Cambodia/e0826360/2020 (H3N2)-like virus; B/Washington/02/2019- like virus (B/Victoria lineage);
B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).
* Updated Strains
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. You should have your immunization by the end of October. Of course, the sooner the administration, the sooner you are protected 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. Talk to your health care provider soon. Now is the time to prevent the flu!
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine