Flu Season is Back

Experts say it’s time to get your annual vaccine

By Ashton Miller

It may be just the beginning of fall, but health care providers typically see their first cases of flu in October.

Jennifer Staley, family nurse practitioner at Novant Health UVA Health System Bristow Run Family Medicine, said she recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. “The flu shot takes about two weeks to start offering protection, so I recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible,” Staley said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said flu season can be unpredictable, so it’s hard to assess its severity and duration. Flu outbreaks can occur as early as October and as late as May, so the sooner you get a flu shot, the better.

“The flu shot is updated every year because the virus can change,” Staley said. She noted that the vaccine is the same whether you get your shot at your doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic, a drug store, or through your employer.

Some senior citizens may want to wait a month for the high-dose vaccine. “There is usually a delay in the high-dose vaccine for seniors,” Staley said. “This vaccine provides better protection for those 65 or older. But if it will be harder for senior citizens to get back to a clinic for the high dose shot, the regular flu shot will still be effective.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges all eligible children and all health care workers to get flu shots. In previous years, an estimated 90 percent of pediatric deaths occurred in unvaccinated children. During the 2014-15 flu season, 145 children died from influenza-related illness and many of these children had no underlying medical condition, the pediatric group reported.

“In addition to the elderly, children are at a higher risk of complications from the flu,” Staley said. “Children can start getting vaccinated as early as six months of age and that’s what I recommend to parents.” Staley said that if a child has never received the flu vaccine, they will need two doses, one month apart, for an adequate immune response.

To protect yourself and your family from the flu this year, call today to schedule a flu shot with your primary care provider for your loved one or yourself. If you don’t have a primary care provider, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/findadoctor to find one.

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can range widely from season to season, according to the CDC. Nonetheless, Staley said people who got the flu shot were better protected with it than without it. “One question I often receive is about how late someone can get the flu shot,” Staley said. “We recommend it through the duration of flu season. We have seen flu cases as late as May, so patients can still benefit from getting a flu shot after what we consider ‘peak season.’”

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