Influenza is commonly referred to as the flu.It is an infectious disease caused by influenza A or B viruses. It is a highly contagious illness that can occur in children or adults of any age. The influenza virus occurs more often in the winter months because people spend more time in close contact with one another. The flu is contagious – it spreads easily from person-to-person by coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces.Symptoms of seasonal flu can vary from person to person but usually include fever (temperature higher than 100ºF or 37.8ºC), headache, muscle aches, fatigue, cough and sore throat. Flu symptoms usually improve over two to five days, although the illness may last for a week or more and such symptoms like weakness and fatigue may persist for several weeks. Occasionally sever complications of the flu can develop; the most common complication is pneumonia.
Vaccination, Why Should I Get It?
Annual influenza vaccination is the most important way of preventing seasonal influenza virus infections and potentially severe complications. It provides protection against infection by causing antibodies to develop in the body. Antibodies are proteins that identify and kill any foreign object in the body, in this case the influenza virus. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or transmitting influenza to others.
How often is the Vaccination Recommended?
Vaccination against influenza is recommended every year for all persons aged six months or older. Since influenza is more likely to occur in the winter months, you should get vaccinated beforehand. It takes two weeks for the vaccination to gain full protection, so allow yourself that much time for the body to produce the antibodies.
How is it given?
The vaccination is given as an intramuscular injection and it is usually over your deltoid muscle. The deltoid muscle is the uppermost part of your arm just below the shoulder. Your doctor will clean the area then inject the vaccination.
Are There any Side Effects?
Although the vaccine does not cause flu illness, there are minor side effects that can occur. Since it is administered as an injection, it may cause reactions at the injection site, such as pain, redness, and swelling. Fever, malaise, myalgia, red eyes, hoarse voice and cough may occur but are mild and usually last for less than 24 hours only.
Who Should Avoid the Vaccination?
There are contraindications (specific situations for when a drug should not be used) for the flu vaccination. This means that certain people should avoid it. The influenza vaccine is not approved for children younger than 6 months of age. In addition, people who have experienced a severe (life threatening) allergy to a prior dose of a seasonal influenza vaccine should not receive the vaccine. These people might be allergic to any component of the vaccine. Patients who have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) are also contraindicated; GBS is a severe paralytic illness. Make sure you talk to your doctor, who can help you decide whether the vaccination should be suggested to you. The vaccine contains tiny amounts of egg proteins, so if you are allergic to eggs, you should consult with your doctor prior to receiving the vaccination and he/she can decide if the vaccination should be suggested to you.