Everyone knows someone who has had the flu this season. Many people think it’s too late to get a preventive flu shot (vaccine), because surely it has run its course in our community. Well, it isn’t too late, and the flu season isn’t over by a long shot.
We will be seeing flu cases until at least spring break. Last year we still had cases in April, so there are eight weeks of flu season left.
If your child hasn’t had a flu shot yet, now is the time. We see in our practice how effective the vaccine is for your family.
This year to date we have had 279+ cases of the flu in our practice alone. In the previous two flu seasons, the total number of cases in our practice were 234 (2016-17) and 148 (2015-16). As you can see, the numbers are higher this year, which means your family has an increased exposure.
But the vaccine helps a great deal. Of the 279 cases so far, 125 cases were of Type A flu among those who had not had the vaccine. Only 46 children who’d had the vaccine got Type A flu. There have been 80 cases of Type B among those with no vaccine, and only 28 cases of Type B in kids who’d had the flu shot.
We have given over 3,500 doses of flu vaccine this season, and we find the chances are much greater of contracting flu when patients haven’t had the shot.
Every year we notice in our practice:
Patients that get the vaccine have a milder course. According to an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “During past seasons, approximately 80% of flu-associated deaths in children have occurred in children who were not vaccinated. Based on available data, this remains true for the 2017-2018 season, as well.”
In families where everyone is vaccinated and someone gets the flu, the entire household may not be affected
Even when the vaccine fails for one strain, it will protect against other strains. As you can see above, we are seeing plenty of both types.
Getting one strain will not protect you from the other (if you’ve had Type A already, you may still get Type B, and vice versa). So even if you’ve had the flu, you should still get the shot.
It takes two weeks for the vaccine to be protective. For infants and toddlers, it takes 2 doses of vaccine to be effective. Note: Infants and children 6 months to less than 9 years of age who received at least 2 doses of trivalent or quadrivalent influenza vaccine prior to July 1, 2017 need only 1 dose of the 2017 to 2018 seasonal influenza vaccine. The 2 doses need not have been received during the same season or consecutive seasons. All other children less than 9 years of age (including those whose vaccination status cannot be determined) should receive 2 doses separated by 4 or more weeks in order to achieve effectiveness, according to the CDC.
If you don’t remember when your infant or child had a vaccine, call our office.
Tamiflu is not a guaranteed back up plan if your family gets the flu. We are now starting to experience shortages of Tamiflu and it may not be widely available in the next few weeks. However, we still have vaccine available.
Bottom line: the flu is still prevalent, but you can help protect your family by getting everyone vaccinated.
Having encouraged all of you to be vaccinated against the flu, we think this is a good time to give you a local update.
Here are some very interesting statistics:
So far this season, Georgetown Pediatrics has administered 4200 doses of flu vaccine, including both shots and nasal mist.
We have had 76 positive flu tests in our office. Of those 76, one was influenza type B, one was both influenza A and B, and 74 were influenza type A (H1N1).
Only 22 patients who received flu vaccine in our office also tested positive in our office for the flu. Of course, some patients may have been diagnosed with the flu elsewhere or had the flu and weren’t diagnosed at all, or some may have received the vaccine elsewhere. Even so, we are happy to note that only 1 in 190 patients who received our vaccines tested positive for flu here.
The bottom line is that flu vaccine works.
Something else you should know: it isn’t too late to get the vaccine. Even if you’ve already had the flu, it was likely type A, and you can still contract type B. Both types are covered by the vaccines. Once kids are back in school after these snow days the virus is bound to be spread more.
We often see cases of influenza B all the way until spring break, so don’t hesitate to come in. Just remember that if you receive the nasal mist you will test positive for the flu for about two weeks, because it’s a live vaccine and the test is a nasal swab.
As winter drags on, you may not be able to stop the snow and ice, but you can certainly lower the risk of your family getting the flu.
Cold and flu season is here. It arrives with colder weather as people spend more time indoors, in close quarters, where germs are more easily passed from one person to another.
Here are just a few reminders of how to help keep your family healthy.
Wash hands. Good old soap and water are still the best protection against contagious diseases that get passed through touching surfaces, shaking hands, etc. Get your family in the practice of washing their hands often. When soap and water are not handy, use hand sanitizer.
Get plenty of sleep. Being well-rested keeps your immune system stronger.
Don’t share. Okay, you teach your kids to share, but some things ought to be for just one person. Water and soda bottles, lip balm, musical instruments all fall into this category. If you have a youngster in child care, make sure the provider sanitizes toys and tables daily.
Cover. Cough or sneeze into a tissue. If there’s no tissue, use the crook of your elbow instead of your hand. Germs on the hand are more easily transferred to other people or surfaces.
Already have a cold? Continue to do all the above, and make sure you stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids keeps mucous thin and your throat moist. Avoid caffeinated beverages.
It’s going to be a long winter, and your family will likely get colds at some point. Use the common sense advice above, and you may have fewer of them.
Georgetown Pediatrics has this year’s flu vaccine ready for your child. Here are a few answers to common questions about the vaccine.
Why get a flu vaccine? Influenza can be a very dangerous disease, and at the very least can make your child be sick for several days. With a vaccine, even if your child gets the flu, it is typically a milder case.
My child had the flu vaccine last year. Does she really need to have one this year, too? Yes. Each year the vaccine is specifically designed and manufactured to be effective against the expected flu outbreaks for that particular flu season. In addition, the vaccine is effective for a few months. For both of those reasons, the vaccine should be administered every year.
Should my infant or toddler get a flu vaccine? Yes, if he’s at least 6 months old. Children who are 6 months to 2 years old are especially susceptible to the flu and it can be very dangerous for them.
Should my child get the flu vaccine as an injection or as the nasal mist? That depends. The nasal mist is easier for most people to take, and is approved for those between the ages of 2 and 49. Since it is a live (though weakened) virus, the short-term side effects (cold-like symptoms) can be a little stronger as the body’s natural reactions take effect. Children who have a compromised immune system (or who have close contact with someone who has a compromised immune system) should get the flu shot instead of the nasal spray. Also, those with certain health conditions like asthma or wheezing, or conditions requiring long-term aspirin usage should take the shot rather than the mist. More information about the flu mist is found here.
Who should NOT get any flu vaccine? Check with your doctor if any of these conditions apply:
NOTE: If your child has an allergy to eggs, she may still be able to take the vaccine. Check with your pediatrician.
If your child or adolescent has had other vaccines within the past four weeks.
We have flu vaccine available now. Call for an appointment. And read more about influenza and the vaccines here.