New Jersey- The flu is here, and it’s going to get worse
Last year, roughly 80,000 people died from flu-related illnesses in the U.S., including 180 children, making it the worst flu season in the past 40 years.
In New Jersey, more than 20,000 people were sickened by the flu and three children died from flu-related illnesses. Emergency room visits were off the charts.
What was particularly concerning, experts said then, was just how hellish flu symptoms were.
An especially nasty flu strain, the H3N2 virus, wreaked havoc throughout the country last season.
Though last year’s flu vaccine was about 40 percent effective overall, it proved only about 25 percent effective against the H3N2 virus, which is known as one of the trickiest strains to combat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the New Jersey Department of Health has not put out any flu numbers yet, professionals have already seen flu cases.
“While it still seems sporadic, it seems that flu has landed,” said Dr. David Cennimo, an assistant professor of medicine-pediatrics infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Dr. Chris Freer, chair of emergency medicine for Saint Barnabas Medical Center and system director of RWJBarnabas Health Emergency Services, said he has also seen flu patients come into his facility.
I know what many of you may be thinking: What’s the point of getting a flu shot if it just turns out to be a miss. (During the 2014-15 season, the flu vaccine was only 19 percent effective.)
Yes, it’s tough to predict whether the flu vaccine will hit the mark, as it is essentially a best guess by health experts on which strains will spread.
However, this year the vaccine has gotten a tuneup “to better match circulating viruses,” according to the CDC.
Do I have to get poked by a needle?
And, for you needle-phobes out there, fear not — the nasal spray has made a return. Last season the CDC advised the public to avoid the nasal spray because it proved to be a flop. But, it appears the nasal spray has also been revamped this year. So, if you prefer nose over needles, this is your year.
However, the CDC does not recommend it for pregnant women, children younger than 2 and adults older than 49.
Click here for more information on the nasal spray.
Where should I get vaccinated?
Where you get vaccinated is entirely up to you. You can get one at your doctor’s office, or you can get one at pharmacies — like CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens. The pharmacy is great because it’s convenient. (You can get one while you’re shopping for other items.)
However, if you have certain allergies or an underlying medical condition, you should talk to your doctor first in case you need a different type of vaccine better suited to your medical needs.
Which flu viruses will be lurking this season?
Until we figure out a universal flu vaccine, health officials, for now, have to rely on a cocktail of sorts that targets three or four of the most common strains that circulate during a season.
This year, the flu vaccine will target:
- H1N1 virus (swine flu)
- H3N2 virus (the one that was a nightmare for us last season)
- Influenza B virus
How effective is the flu vaccine?
What am I putting in my body, anyway?
There are different types of flu vaccines, but the most common vaccine is made in the eggs of chickens.
Vaccines are grown in chicken eggs through a complex process (which we’ll skip). But, it aims to combat the three or four flu strains that are predicted to circulate during a given season.
The vaccine is considered safe for the vast majority of the population, according to the CDC.
A small number of people who have life-threatening allergies to the vaccine or to an ingredient in the vaccine (like eggs) should talk to their doctor first. There are other vaccines out there that are not egg-based
What type of flu vaccines are being offered this year?
There are several options of flu vaccines depending on age, your health condition or an underlying medical issue.
Here are the different types of vaccines being offered this season:
It sounds a little more exciting than it really is. But, if you don’t like needles, this is another alternative out there.
A jet injector uses a narrow, high-pressure stream of fluid to penetrate the skin instead of a hypodermic needle.
Cell-based vaccine? Egg-based vaccine? Should I care?
Experts say it’s best just to get a flu shot, whether it’s an egg-based or a cell-based vaccine.
But some studies suggest that cell-based vaccines — like Flucelvax — may have been around 20 percent more effective last flu season compared with the egg-based vaccine.
“The egg-based has a little more tendency to change,” Freer said, referring to the flu virus’ ability to mutate in the manufacturing process. “Which is not the case with the cell-based.”
Why was last year’s vaccine not so great?
A kind of mutation was seen last season with the dominant flu strain — nasty H3N2 virus. While last season’s vaccine was about 40 percent effective overall, when it came to the H3N2 virus, it proved only around 25 percent effective.
This was because the H3N2 mutated in the manufacturing process, rendering the vaccine against that strain much less effective.
Will a flu shot help me even if I get the flu?
And there’s another major reason a flu shot is a good idea regardless of how effective it is.
Even if you get the flu, the flu shot will make your symptoms a lot less hellish, experts say.
“Even if you get the flu, the odds of you getting hospitalized are lower,” Freer said. “You get a milder version of it.
When will flu season ramp up this year?
Though flu season can start as early as October, things usually don’t start ramping up until the winter months. Last year, illnesses began to surge in late December and January, peaking in early February. This was also the case the year before that.
How long does it take for the flu vaccine to work?
When you get a flu shot, the antibodies that your body develops don’t start sprinting out of the gate. It takes about two weeks for them to kick into gear and offer the protection that will carry you through the end of the season, which can last until April or even May. This is another reason not to delay getting your vaccine.
Why do people make such a big deal about getting a flu shot?
Getting a flu shot every year has almost become a civic duty. Why? Because it’s not necessarily just about protecting yourself from getting sick. It’s also about protecting others around you — like young children who are especially susceptible to the flu because their immune systems aren’t as strong as adults.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Who should and should not get a flu vaccine?
The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone 6 months and older. Getting vaccinated is especially important for young children and people 65 and older.
However, vaccines are not recommended for children younger than 6 months and people with “severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine,” according to the CDC.
Such ingredients include gelatin and antibiotics.
Do I need a flu shot each year?
Yes, because the flu shot will eventually wear off. And flu viruses are constantly mutating
What are some myths about the flu vaccine?
Here’s a rundown of some of the myths and misconceptions that might prevent people from getting a flu shot:
- Myth: The flu shot can give you the flu. (Some people think this because the flu shot can give you a minor reaction. In rare cases, some people can develop a life-threatening reaction, according to the CDC.)
- Myth: It’s better to get the flu than the flu vaccine. (No. It’s definitely not better to get the flu if you can avoid it.)
- Myth: I don’t need a flu shot every year. (The flu vaccine will eventually wear off, so you’ll need to get one each year.
What are hospitals doing to prepare for this season?
Freer said earlier this month that hospitals around the state have been taking extra preparations to avoid the massive influx of patients seen last season. New Jersey saw record-breaking emergency room visits and admission last year.
Source: The flu is here, and it’s going to get worse. Why you should get your flu shot now | NJ.com