Flu, otherwise medically termed as influenza, is a contagious disease caused by viruses. It causes symptoms in the nasal passage and throat and if severe, can impact the lungs of the patient.
The severity of flu varies from person to person depending on their immunity. For few, a bout of flu causes mild nasal and throat symptoms and for others it can be fatal.
The flu virus spreads as a droplet infection from the infected person upon coughing, sneezing and other forms of close contact. Flu virus can also spread by surface contamination of the droplet from an infected person.
Who should be protected from flu in India?
The most vulnerable populations for flu are children in the age group of 6 month to 8 years and the elderly who are 65 and above. This mainly owes to the immune status of these age groups. In children, immunity is still developing and they are not fully equipped to fight against the virus and in elderly, a comorbid disease usually increases the severity of a flu infection.
Preventing Seasonal Flu
The primary strategy to prevent the spread of seasonal flu is early diagnosis and treatment of the patient. However, this may be difficult since symptoms of flu are seldom different from other bacterial and viral respiratory diseases.
The simplest step to prevent flu is to stay away from people who are infected. If someone is infected from flu, they should cover their nose while sneezing and coughing.
Good hand hygiene often also helps the prevention of flu spread.
The best strategy to control the spread of flu is to vaccinate the population for flu. Flu vaccination is important during the monsoon as India falls in the SH region.
Vaccinating for flu
Flu vaccinations have many beneficial effects such as reducing the severity of infection, lowering the risk of flu infection, complications and even death rates in children.
How does a flu vaccine work?
A flu vaccine are attenuated viruses that are predicted upon research to affect during that particular year. Attenuated viruses are inactive and do not cause disease but in turn can stimulate the body to form antibodies against possible viral infections. Note that the body is equipped with antibodies to fight against a virus if and when the individual contacts the virus in real.
Right flu vaccine, at the right time
The WHO has recommended that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) vaccine is the ideal vaccine for India. Influenza vaccination is most effective when local circulating viruses are well-matched with vaccine antigens for SH. Since the peak season of flu in the larger part of the country starts between mid-summer to monsoons, now is the right time to vaccinate against flu for effective protection.
Why do we need to repeat the flu vaccine every year?
The flu vaccines need to be repeated every year because the virus undergoes a number of changes as it spreads among the population – every year the vaccine is updated depending on the research. Hence it is important to take a shot every year.
However, getting vaccinated early for subsequent seasons is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults says CDC. Protection fades over time, so not getting vaccinated with the vaccine containing the right seasonal strains may leave one more vulnerable. Vaccination can be done throughout the SH flu season, into September or later.
If you or your family member have just taken the covid vaccine, then keep a gap of 14 days before taking the flu shot.
The best way to protect our self and our family is to take a flu vaccination every year and fight these preventable illness to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle.
We must #PreventWhatCanBePrevented because flu is preventable with vaccination.