Flu Season 2016

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Here are the things you need to know about this year’s flu season, especially if you are 65 or older: (1) The Fluzone high-dose vaccine is still available for those 65 and up. It contains four times the amount of antigen, the substance that prompts an immune response, as a regular flu shot. “The trade-off with this vaccine is that it is a trivalent [meaning it fights three strains of the flu], and many of our regular vaccines have four strains in them,” said Dr. Lisa Winston, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and the hospital epidemiologist at the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. (2) There is a new vaccine option for people 65 and older. It is an adjuvanted shot called Fluad. An adjuvant is a substance added to increase the immune response. The Fluad shot is also a trivalent. The Fluad and Fluzone high-dose shots may also cause a greater local reaction, such as a sore arm, Winston said. (3) The CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices has said that “at this point there aren’t clinical data that are compelling enough for the CDC  to recommend a particular vaccine for those 65 and older,” Winston said. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you. (4) The nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for anyone this year. Its effectiveness does not hold up to that of the shot, the CDC said. Previously, it was an option for those ages 2 to 49. (5) People 65 and older should not get the intradermal flu shot or the jet injector vaccine. (If you have not yet gotten your flu shot for the year, now is the time. For best protection, everyone should get the shot by the end of October, according to the CDC. But if you don’t make it by then, it is still worthwhile to get vaccinated — even as late as January. The flu virus circulates throughout the winter season. (6) Early indications are that the strains doctors are seeing in people this season look like they’re the ones in the vaccine, which is good news, said Winston. “So far, based on the few strains that have been typed, there’s not great concern that we’re going to have a mismatch like we did a couple years ago. But it’s only October. Influenza is just sporadic at this point, so it’s too early to know,” he added. (7) There is no longer any need for people with egg allergies to avoid the flu shot. Those who have experienced only hives from eggs need not be observed for 30 minutes following a flu shot, as was previously recommended. People who have had a more severe reaction to eggs should get the flu shot, but be observed in a medical setting. (8) Under the Affordable Care Act, many insurers are required to provide preventive services like the flu shot at no cost to you.The shots are free with Medicare and Medicaid. If you have no insurance, a flu shot at a chain store will cost between about $25 (for the standard shot) to $65 (for the shots recommended for those 65 and up). Keep yourself safe this flu season and get the shot! http://www.nextavenue.org/

 

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