Influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a viral illness that varies in severity from typical cold symptoms to more serious life-threatening problems, including vomiting, muscle aches and pains, and dangerously high fevers. The most common side effects are coughing, sneezing, fever, runny nose, headaches, and sore throat. There are several strains of influenza, and the virus is constantly evolving and mutating, spreading across the world in annual epidemics causing 250,000 to 500,000 deaths in high-risk groups in a single season. Occasionally, new strains will be classified as a pandemic, causing millions of deaths throughout the country.
Flu affects a number of mammal and bird species, and strains affecting other species can spread through human populations as well. “Bird Flu” and “Swine Flu” are two examples of strains that have seriously affected mankind, with the 2009 “Swine Flu” epidemic noted for its remarkably rapid spread. Easily transmitted from person to person, the virus is typically airborne and spreads through coughing, sneezing, and coming into close contact with infected individuals.
Flu shots are yearly vaccines designed to combat the constantly changing virus, and updated vaccines are developed and released every year. There are 2 vaccines available, the flu shot and flu mist. The shot delivers an inactive portion of the killed flu virus and the flu mist a very weakened form of the live virus. Both prompt the production of anti-bodies to protect the virus. Discuss with your pediatrician which would be best for your child. While certain demographics are more susceptible to acute symptoms, anyone of any age can suffer from this viral infection.
Young children, seniors, and pregnant women are the most susceptible to the flu. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends every child 6 months or greater to be vaccinated annually regardless of risk factors. Other people at high risk from the flu include those with chronic underlying health conditions like asthma, cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, immune disorders, and muscular disorders.
Flu season usually begins around October and can last until May of the following year. Vaccines are available in the fall beginning in September and may be scheduled at our office. People who come into frequent contact with at-risk persons should consider the flu shot a high priority. The vaccine will last for one flu season, and a new vaccine is required the next season.
Get more information on Pediatric Associates of Franklin’s Flu Vaccines here.