Flu and Pneumonia Shots

Every flu season is different, and influenza can affect people differently. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Everyone aged 6 months and older should receive an annual influenza vaccination. Getting an annual influenza vaccination will protect you and those you care about from the flu. A seasonal flu vaccination is especially recommended for people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people living or caring for babies six months and younger or people who are unable to be vaccinated because of health reasons, and all health care workers.

It’s not too early to get a flu shot — immunity will last through the season. The reason people need annual flu shots is because the strains shift from year to year, not because immunity from vaccine wanes. Seasonal flu vaccines consist of three likely influenza strains: H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B (all three strains are co-circulating around the world).

The CDC says that even though the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 pandemic officially over in August 2010, the H1N1 virus will likely continue to spread for years to come, like a regular seasonal influenza virus. Seasonal flu vaccine, which is manufactured by strict federal standards and thoroughly tested before it is offered to the public, began arriving in Oregon in August and will continue through the end of the year. Some children ages 9 and under may need two doses of seasonal flu to provide the best protection. Parents should check with their health care provider.

Prevention is a crucial part of staying healthy during flu season:

  • Cover your cough
  • Wash your hands
  • Stay home when you’re sick
  • Get vaccinated

Every year in the United States, on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and; about 36,000 die from the flu. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. Our goal is to provide flu and pneumonia vaccination coverage for as many Tillamook County residents as possible.

Preventing Flu

Vaccination: The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall. In the absence of vaccine, however, there are other ways to protect against flu.

Antiviral Medications: Three antiviral drugs (amantadine, rimantadine, and oseltamivir) are approved and commercially available for use in preventing flu. All of these medications are prescription drugs, and a doctor should be consulted before the drugs are used for preventing the flu.

Other Habits for Good Health

The following steps may help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like flu:

  • Avoid close contact
    Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean your hands
    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

Facts VS. Myths On Flu Shots

“The flu is just like a bad cold.”

Influenza (flu) is far more dangerous than a bad cold. It’s a disease of the lungs, and it can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized and about 20,000 people die because of the flu. Most who die are over 65 years old. But small children less than 2 years old are as likely as those over 65 to have to go to the hospital because of the flu.

“The shot can give you the flu.”

Flu vaccines are made from killed influenza viruses. These viruses cannot give you the flu.

“Even if I get a flu shot, I can still get the flu.”

This can happen, but the flu shot usually protects most people from the flu. However, the flu shot will not protect you from other viruses that can cause illnesses that sometimes feel like the flu.

“The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, so I’m better off getting the flu.”

No vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you get a flu shot but still get the flu, you are likely to be far less sick than you would have been without the protection.

“The side effects are worse than the flu.”

The worst side effect you’re likely to get is a sore arm. The risk of a rare allergic reaction is far less than the risk of severe complications from influenza.

“Not everyone can take the flu shot.”

If you are allergic to eggs (used in making the vaccine); are very ill with a high fever; or have had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, you might not be able to get this protection.

“Only the very old and sick need the flu shot.”

Both adults and children who are in good health need a flu shot to stay healthy. Even if you aren’t at high risk of complications, you should get a flu shot to prevent the flu and to protect everyone you live with and contact.

“December is too late to get a flu shot.”

The flu shot can be given before or during the flu season. While the best time to get a flu shot is in October or November, a flu shot in December or later will still protect you against the flu.

Robin Watts, 503-842-3928