The 2018-2019 flu season was the longest one in 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It lasted 21 weeks.
Although the CDC reported that last year’s flu season wasn’t as severe as previous ones, the agency estimates that somewhere between 37.4 million and 42.9 million people contracted influenza last year. Sadly, more than 36,000 of these cases resulted in death.
Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect against contracting the flu. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions surrounding flu shots and how to protect ourselves in the upcoming flu season.
Why should I get a flu shot?
The flu is a serious illness that millions of Americans contract each year. The flu can not only throw your life off-course — it knocks some people out for weeks on end — but it can also lead to dangerous complications, leading to hospitalization or even death.
The flu vaccine is your best defense against contracting influenza. In fact, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 5.3 million cases of the flu during the 2016–2017 season, according to the CDC. Getting vaccinated not only reduces the risk that you’ll get the flu, but it also reduces the risk you’ll be hospitalized because of it.
When should I get a flu shot?
Because the flu shot’s antibodies take around two weeks to develop in the body, it’s best to get the flu shot as early as possible. Strive to get your flu shot in the early fall before the flu season begins.
If life gets busy and you don’t get around to getting a vaccine in the fall, keep in mind that you can still get one well into January — the flu season goes until at least February, if not longer.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
All adults and children who are 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine, with the exception of people who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome or people with allergies to some of the ingredients in the flu shot (i.e., eggs, gelatin and some antibiotics).
The flu shot should be a priority for:
- Children ages 6 months to four years
- People 50 and older
- People with chronic lung disease or heart disease
- People with kidney, liver, blood or metabolic disorders
- People who are immunosuppressed
- Pregnant women and women up to two weeks post-delivery
- Nursing home residents
- Health care personnel
- Children ages 6 months to 18 years who take an aspirin- or salicylate-containing medication
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People with a BMI over 40
- Caregivers of young children and older adults
- Caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of developing flu complications
What do experts predict for the 2019–2020 flu season?
Each year, experts take data from the previous flu season in order to inform decision-making for the upcoming flu vaccine. Researchers try to predict the three or four virus strains that are the most likely to be present in the upcoming season, and they create a vaccine targeted against these strains.
Because there is some estimating involved, the flu vaccine is more effective in some years than others.
Ready to get your flu shot this season? See your IMG physician or visit one of these Inova clinics.