pamf.org

PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

What’s New With Flu?

Posted on Sep 2, 2011

Flu season is upon us once again. Each year, 5 to 20 percent of Americans get the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The good news is that getting vaccinated is a safe way to help prevent the flu.

Getting a flu vaccine is one of the best ways to avoid the flu and stay healthy. If you haven’t yet gotten your flu vaccine, now is the time to do it.

What’s in the flu vaccine this year?

The 2011/2012 vaccine will have the same formulation as last year’s vaccine, meaning that the H1N1 vaccine will be included. However, your immunization from last year will have worn off by this year, so make sure to get your shot.

Each year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chooses three viruses to include in the seasonal flu vaccine, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO looks at the viruses circulating in the southern hemisphere.

“Typically, we’ll see a few cases of flu in the fall and then more in December,” says Dr. Charles Weiss, urgent care physician and public health expert at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center. “However, the point at which the flu peaks is unpredictable – it can be in December, January, February or March. We usually start vaccinating our patients in September, but continue our efforts throughout the flu season.”

What’s new?

  • The CDC now recommends that everyone older than six months be vaccinated. Although the H1N1 virus was downgraded to a seasonal flu last year, it still targets healthy young and middle-aged adults and pregnant women, which is unusual. In general, seasonal flu strains affect children, seniors, pregnant women and those with chronic medical problems the most.
  • People with a history of severe allergic reaction to eggs or the flu vaccine itself should consult a physician before receiving flu vaccine.
  • The flu can seriously affect pregnant women, which underscores the need for pregnant women to get vaccinated. This not only protects the mother, but will protect the newborn during the first few months, which is vital since babies cannot get the flu vaccine until they are six months.

 Visit pamf.org/flu to learn more about the flu, including:

  • General information about seasonal flu
  • Who is considered at high risk for the flu
  • What you can do to avoid getting the flu
  • When, where and how to get a seasonal flu vaccine
  • How to care for individuals with the flu

Dr. Charles Weiss, an urgent care physician and public health expert at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Palo Alto Center, contributed to this blog post.