Flu basics

Flu basics

  • Flu activity most commonly peaks in the US in January or February.
  • CDC recommends vaccinations for the vast majority of people ages 6 months and older. For timely protection, people should try to be immunized as soon as the vaccine becomes available in their community, ideally by October.
  • That’s especially important for those most vulnerable to flu complications, which includes:
    • Children younger than 5 years
    • Adults over 50
    • People with chronic health problems and those with weakened immune systems
    • Pregnant women and those who may become pregnant during flu season
    • Residents of nursing homes
    • American Indians and Alaska natives
    • People who are morbidly obese (defined as having a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or more)
  • Those who live with or care for someone at high risk of flu complications—including parents of babies too young to be vaccinated.
  • Children aged 6 months through 8 years who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time, or who have received less than two doses since July 2010, will require two doses of vaccine administered ≥4 weeks apart.

Who should hold off on getting the flu shot?

  • Some people shouldn’t get a flu shot before talking with their doctors, however. This includes people who have had a severe reaction to a past flu vaccine or have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome. People with egg allergies can usually get a flu shot, but they may want to ask their doctor if a newer egg-free vaccine is best for them.
  • People who are ill should delay getting a flu shot until they are healthy, according to CDC.

Trivalent vs. Quadrivalent Vaccine

  • Most of the 2013-2014 vaccine supply will protect against three different strains of influenza as usual, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But some vaccines will guard against four flu strains. These “quadrivalent” vaccines may offer broader protection, depending on the flu strains that dominate this year.
  • Other than age or other health indications, CDC notes that it does not recommend one vaccine over another. It is suggested that people should not put off getting the traditional trivalent vaccine shot if a quadrivalent type isn’t available in their area.
  • The traditional trivalent vaccines will protect against two A viruses and one B virus: specifically, an H1N1-type virus, an H3N2 virus and a virus similar to a strain that occurred during the 2012-2013 season .  The newer quadrivalent vaccine will add protection to an additional B virus strain.
  • There are 13 formulations of influenza vaccine available this season, including one quadrivalent nasal vaccine (brand name FluMist). It’s intended for healthy people ages 2 to 49, excluding pregnant women.

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