It’s never too late to get vaccinated for influenza, better known as the “flu”.
While we ache for the start of Spring (seems like the ground hog was wrong about an early spring this year), we can’t forget that the flu and other seasonal communicable diseases are still lurking around. The flu season can extend all the way through May and for those individuals who have not gotten the 2018-2019 version of the flu vaccine, it is still not too late to get vaccinated.
There are many benefits to the vaccination, including reducing the risk of flu illness, fewer doctor’s visits, decrease risk of hospitalization, and even preventing death. The Flu vaccination has also been shown to reduce severity of illness among people who get vaccinated, but still continue to get sick.
This season’s flu offers an option of either trivalent (three-component) or quadrivalent (four-component) vaccines, which protect against the different virus strains, or a nasal spray flu vaccine option (live attenuated influenza vaccine or “LAIV”).
It takes 10-14 days or two weeks before you develop enough protective antibodies to protect against contracting the flu.
CDC expects flu activity to remain elevated for a number of weeks. According to a recent Centers For Disease Control FluView report (February 22, 2019) flu activity reached a new high for this year’s season.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), which also closely tracks flu activity, now reports widespread ILI all over Illinois.
“Influenza like Illness” (ILI), defined as fever ≥ 100°F with a cough and/or sore throat, makes up 2.7% of out-patient visits in Illinois in late February 2019.
CDC notes hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu this year are well below what was observed last season. Experts attribute the calmer flu season to the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine.
Besides getting vaccinated, even late in the flu season, one needs to follow the basics to stay healthy: wash your hands frequently (consider carrying a pocket bottle of hand sanitizer), avoid being around those who are sick, and try to get plenty of rest.
There is a new antiviral medication for treatment of influenza A and B Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil), which was FDA approved in October 2018 and should be given as a single dose by mouth to those who have been symptomatic for no more than 48 hours. However, it only reduces the duration of flu symptoms by approximately a day. In addition, Tamiflu, which is another Oseltamivir is used to treat symptoms caused by the flu virus (influenza). It helps make the symptoms (such as stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fever/chills, aches and tiredness) less severe and shortens the recovery time by 1-2 days. This medication may also be used to prevent the flu, if you have been exposed to someone who already has the flu (such as a sick household member), or if there is a flu outbreak in the community.
medication works by stopping the flu virus from growing. It is not a substitute for the flu vaccine.