Flu season is in full force and San Antonio is experiencing an unprecedented number of cases, according to the San Antonio Express News. Hopefully, you are taking steps to keep you and your family healthy; washing your hands, disinfecting common areas and keeping your coughs and sneezes to yourself. However, the best protection against the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to get the flu vaccine. October flew by and November slipped away from you and here it is January and you realize you never went in for your vaccine. You may be thinking it is too late to vaccinate, but doctors say no; you can still go get your vaccine to help you make it through this flu season unscathed.
The flu season typically begins in October, although this year the first cases were seen in September. The season then peaks in January or February and can last until into May. That means the flu will be a threat for many months to come. Doctors and clinics provide vaccinations for as long as the flu virus remains in circulation. Get your shot as soon as possible because it takes your body up to two weeks to produce the antibodies that then protect you from the flu virus.
Now that you decided to go get your flu shot, do not just rush out the door to the nearest clinic. Call ahead to ensure your destination of choice still has shots available. There is not a shortage of vaccine this year, manufacturers estimated to produce 135 million doses and as of January 4, 2013 they had distributed 128 million doses. However, many clinics have experienced temporary shortages while awaiting new shipments because the severity of the flu has prompted more people to get the shot.
Getting the flu shot does not mean you will not get the flu. There are many different strains of the flu virus circulating and this year’s flu shot only protects you against the three most prevalent strains. In addition, some people become infected with a strain of flu even after receiving the vaccine that includes that strain. In these cases, the symptoms are usually milder than if you had not received the shot. Overall, the flu shot is about 60 percent effective according to reports released by the CDC.
And if you are thinking that you are safe this year because you received your flu shot last year, think again. The protection provided by the flu vaccine declines over time. In addition, the strains of flu included in the vaccine vary from year to year depending on which strains the CDC predicts will be prevalent. Therefore, anyone over the age of six months, especially those susceptible to complications of the flu including adults over 65 years of age, children under five years old, pregnant women and those with chronic disease like asthma or kidney disease, should get their flu vaccine every year.