Tuesday , July 27 2021

This year's flu vaccine is working well. There's still time to get it




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Distribution of influenza viruses this season, with brown showing H1N1 and red showing H3N2 virus.US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The flu is widespread and increases now,& nbsp;according to the CDC.& nbsp; At least 42 states were reporting high levels of influenza activity in late December 2018, and rates are still rising. In other words, we are in the middle of the flu season.

Other than that, though, the news is relatively good. Here's why.

First, the dominant strain of flu this year is H1N1, which is the "swine flu" that first appeared as a pandemic in 2009. But pandemics do not have to come with high mortality rates and as it happened – fortunately for mankind – 2009 flu was lighter than the previous dominant strain, H3N2, which first appeared in 1968.

This season,& nbsp;almost 90% of the CDC-tested flu casesis becoming the H1N1, the smoothest variety. Although 10% of people are still getting the H3N2 flu, which is much more unpleasant, it's good news compared to last year when H3N2 dominated.

Back to bad news (although it's old news): The 2009 swine flu (H1N1) has not completely shifted the old strain of the flu. Instead, we now have both types of flu circulating, along with two strains of influenza B virus, even lighter. Since 2009, the flu vaccine has to fight all 4 of these flu viruses, which is why you can see the term "quadrivalent" associated with the vaccine. This means that it reaches all 4 different lineages.

Back to the good news: this year's vaccine contains only the right strains! This does not always happen; in fact, happens much less often than anyone would like. But now that the flu season is underway, the CDC can test the circulating flu viruses and compare them to the strains that are targeted by this year's vaccine. This year,& nbsp;both H1N1 and H3N2 viruses combine very well with the vaccine strains, which means that if you took the photo, you are likely to be well protected.

(Remember, even in a good year, the vaccine is not 100% effective, and you may still get the flu. But you are much less likely to get it than anyone who is not vaccinated.)

As long as I have your attention, let me respond to one of the top 10 health issues of the year:How long is the flu contagious?"According to the CDC,

  • the flu is more contagious in the first 3-4 days after falling ill.

It remains contagious for up to a week, so if you have the flu, stay home! And make sure people around you avoid physical contact as much as possible and wash their hands often.

And while I'm at it, let's unmask a common myth:

  • No, you can not catch the flu from the vaccine.

So if you postpone the flu shot, it's not too late! The season is in full swing, but if you get the vaccine today, you'll probably have excellent protection for the rest of the season. Go get it.

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Distribution of influenza viruses this season, with brown showing H1N1 and red showing H3N2 virus.US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The flu is widespread and increases now, according to the CDC. At least 42 states were reporting high levels of influenza activity in late December 2018, and rates are still rising. In other words, we are in the middle of the flu season.

Other than that, though, the news is relatively good. Here's why.

First, the dominant strain of flu this year is H1N1, which is the "swine flu" that first appeared as a pandemic in 2009. But pandemics do not have to come with high mortality rates, and how it ended – fortunately for the humanity – The 2009 flu was milder than the previous dominant strain, H3N2, which first appeared in 1968.

This season, Almost 90% of the flu cases tested by CDC are becoming H1N1, the milder variety. Although 10% of people are still getting the H3N2 flu, which is much more unpleasant, it's good news compared to last year when H3N2 dominated.

Back to bad news (although it's old news): The 2009 swine flu (H1N1) has not completely shifted the old strain of the flu. Instead, we now have both types of flu circulating, along with two strains of influenza B virus, even lighter. Since 2009, the flu vaccine has to fight all 4 flu viruses, which is why you can see the term "quadrivalent" associated with the vaccine. This means that it reaches all 4 different lineages.

Back to the good news: this year's vaccine contains only the right strains! This does not always happen; in fact, happens much less often than anyone would like. But now that the flu season is underway, the CDC can test the circulating flu viruses and compare them to the strains that are targeted by this year's vaccine. This year, the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses combine very well with the vaccine strains, which means that if you get the shot, you're probably very well protected.

(Remember, even in a good year, the vaccine is not 100% effective, and you may still get the flu. But you are much less likely to get it than anyone who is not vaccinated.)

As long as I have your attention, let me respond to one of the top 10 health issues of the year: "How long is the flu contagious?" According to the CDC,

  • the flu is more contagious in the first 3-4 days after falling ill.

It remains contagious for up to a week, so if you have the flu, stay home! And make sure people around you avoid physical contact as much as possible and wash their hands often.

And while I'm at it, let's unmask a common myth:

  • No, you can not catch the flu from the vaccine.

So if you postpone the flu shot, it's not too late! The season is in full swing, but if you get the vaccine today, you'll probably have excellent protection for the rest of the season. Go get it.


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