By Cristina Mestre
The seasonal flu has hit hard across the country, making this one of the worst years for flu in the past decade. There have been more than 23,000 laboratory proven cases of the flu in Allegheny County alone and 75 people across the state have died, according to the latest statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
UPMC's David Nace, M.D., M.P.H., director of Long-Term Care and Flu Programs and chief of medical affairs for the UPMC Senior Communities, has seen the effects of the flu season first hand. Here he answers some common questions about the flu.
How effective is the flu shot in preventing against the virus?
In general, the flu vaccine is
very effective in preventing the flu or its complications. The effectiveness of
the flu vaccine may vary each year depending on which flu strain is
circulating. It may also be less effective in frail or older persons who have
impaired immune systems. This year, researchers have estimated the flu vaccine
to be 62 percent effective against the flu. While the flu vaccine is not
100 percent effective, it is important to remember that no medical therapy is and it is still important to get the flu vaccine.
Is it possible to actually get the flu from the flu shot?
It is not possible to get the
flu from the flu shot. The flu is an infection and infections are transmitted
by living organisms such as bacteria or viruses. The flu shot does not have
live virus in it.
Some people get a sore arm or a
mild feverishness after a flu shot – usually the first time they get a flu
shot. This isn’t the same as the flu. It doesn’t last for days, nor cause you
to stop eating or have to be in bed. This is simply your immune system reacting
to the flu shot, forming protection for the coming season.
Are there people who shouldn’t get a flu shot?
Some people should not get the
flu vaccine, but these account for less than 2 percent of the population. Since the flu vaccine is
developed using chicken eggs, persons who have a severe life-threatening
allergy to eggs should not get the flu shot. However, recent experience has
shown that those with minor egg allergies may get the vaccine with no problem. If
you have a question, check with your doctor.
If you have had a prior
allergic reaction to the flu shot, you should avoid getting another. This is
very, very, very rare. Also, individuals who have had the rare neurological disease known as Guillian-Barre syndrome should talk with their doctor before getting the vaccine.
If you are pregnant, you should get the flu shot. The flu shot is not harmful to the mother, and it is not harmful
to the child. In fact, studies have shown that giving the flu shot to pregnant
women protects the newborn baby against the flu.
Do I need to avoid public places to prevent
Most people should not worry
about being around others or visiting public places, especially if you have had
the flu shot. If you have serious health
problems such as emphysema, advanced heart failure, or have a compromised
immune system, then you might want to consider avoiding visitation to some
public places, particularly hospitals or nursing homes where there are likely to
be persons with the flu.
Do you or your family get the flu shot?
I get the flu shot every year.
I have only missed the flu shot once in the last decade and a half, and I paid
for it dearly! My wife gets the flu shot every year as do my kids. In fact, my
kids remind me about it each year. They don’t want the flu either.