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The Flu Shot - What You Need and Why You Need It

Summer is now all but gone. And while we may get a few warm days, the night's cooler temps, that certain crispness in the air tells us in Southeastern Wyoming: Fall Is here, and Winter isn't too far behind! Our minds may naturally turn to falling leaves, pumpkins, and other festivities heralding Autumn, the season also brings a rather pesky reminder that cold and flu season is also at our door!

We reached out to Giselle Grimes, infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hospital of Converse County for some advice, some information, 4-1-1 on this whole flu thing and also why we need that flu shot every year.

"Prevention is key," began Grimes, "The best way to prevent the flu is to get immunized."

Immunization means, yep you guessed it, most likely a flu shot. The specific cocktail for flu shots can change from year to year and according to the CDC: "The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called "trivalent" vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called "quadrivalent" vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus."

Though in some cases you can get a nasal spray flu vaccine, the CDC is not recommending these during the flu season this year and is pretty staunchly recommending the injection of the trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines that are injectable. Each should be readily available throughout Converse County. The 3 component Flu vaccine protects against: A/California/7/2009 pdm09-like virus, A/HongKong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus, and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage).

The 4 component vaccines include the 3 viruses above, plus an additional B virus called B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Increasing the number of people who get vaccinated each year helps to protect more people, including older people, very young children and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

You may stop and think, "Hey I got one of these last year, do I really have to get another?" And the simple answer is Yes, yes you do. And really the sooner the better.

A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons: First, the body's immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. And second, because the flu viruses themselves are constantly changing. The formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year by the CDC and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. As well, you need to make it a family affair: for the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.

You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in our community. Of note: it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu, so make plans to get vaccinated asap, before flu season begins in earnest. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.

What do you hope to avoid with contracting influenza? A whole host of trouble. Influenza can cause:

  • Severe aches in muscles and joints
  • Pain and tiredness around your eyes
  • Weakness or extreme fatigue
  • Warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes
  • A headache
  • A dry cough
  • A sore throat and runny nose

More serious symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in your chest or belly
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting

And yes, it can cause hospitalization and possibly even death. Again according to the CDC: 36,000 people die annually and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu. Those most at risk include the elderly and young children.

"The flu can have very serious consequences," concluded Grimes. "So get immunized to protect your family and protect your community."

The flu shot is available at the Converse County Health Department, Pharmacies in the area and of course via your provider at Memorial Hospital of Converse County. No matter which you choose, be sure to get one in order to avoid the influenza however possible this season!