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In a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu. For most people, the flu is a passing virus that makes you feel terrible for several days, but for some it can be more serious and require hospitalization. In fact, earlier this year a Cary High School student died of complications from the flu.
The good news is you have three primary defenses against the flu that are very effective.
1. Avoid People Who Are Sick
2. Wash Your Hands
3. Get the Flu Vaccine
This year, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, with a particular emphasis on healthcare workers, school-aged children, teachers, daycare workers and pregnant women. Getting vaccinated is as much about protecting yourself as it is about protecting those around you. Parent vaccination helps to protect children; healthcare worker vaccination protects patients; teacher vaccination protects students, etc.
This year the U.S. seasonal influenza vaccine virus strains are identical to those contained in the 2010-11 vaccine. (These include A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like, A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like, and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like antigens.)
If you got the vaccine last year, it is still very important to get the vaccine this year to maintain optimal protection against flu. Your body does retain some protection for a lifetime after a flu vaccine, but immunity wanes. This means that if you do not get the vaccine again this year, your body won’t be as equipped to fight off the virus. If you got the flu vaccine last year, think of this year’s vaccine as a booster.
The flu vaccine is available now, and now is a great time of year to start building your immunity. Remember, it takes about two weeks to develop immunity after receiving the shot.
Robin Carver is director of WakeMed Raleigh Campus infection control.
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