Ask A Doc Blog

Flu vaccine

The cold season is here and the cases of flu are expected to be on the rise. It is therefore important that you get a flu vaccine as this will help you avoid infections, unnecessary sick offs, and certainly save yourself from medical bills. Flu (short form for Influenza) is a very common respiratory infection caused by a virus. Many a times, people mistake common cold for flu. The truth is the two are caused by different group of viruses. Usually, flu symptoms are more serious and tend to last longer. Symptoms are of sudden onset and may include muscle aches, headaches, high fever, sore throat, dry cough, and severe discomfort. Flu can be easily spread when a person who is infected coughs. The flu-infected droplets get trapped into the air and consequently, a person who is not infected can breathe in the droplets and get infected. The most common types of influenza virus are influenza A (which is a more severe type) and B, with both present locally. There is also type C which normally causes mild symptoms like those of common cold. In Kenya, flu outbreaks occur in distinctive patterns. Usually, flu can occur any time of the year, but it may be worse during certain times of the year. Highest incidents of flu in Kenya tend to occur in the wet months i.e. March, April, July, October, and November. Getting a flu vaccine annually is an excellent way to prevent yourself from catching the virus. Getting vaccinated on a yearly basis is important because the viruses that cause flu may change with each season. For this reason, flu vaccines may need to be updated each season so that they can be effective at protecting against the type of viruses which are latest. A person’s immune protection provided by the vaccine tends to diminish over time thus an annual vaccination is advised. A yearly vaccination is also needed so as to get optimal protection from the virus. The flu vaccine contains deactivated (killed) virus .It is available in form of flu shot, which is normally injected in the arm. Once injected in the body, the vaccine tricks the immune system into assuming that there is a natural infection in the body. Consequently, the immune system produces antibodies (proteins that fight diseases) to fight the flu virus if it occurs. If a person becomes exposed to virus that causes flu after they receiving vaccination, the immune system is able to recognize the virus and respond immediately to fight the virus. It is this immunity that protects a person from getting flu, and if it happens, the infection is usually mild unlike in a person who has not been vaccinated. Note that the flu shot cannot cause flu in a person because the injected virus is deactivated. After getting vaccinated, it usually takes around 2 weeks for the body to build full immunity and offer protection against flu virus. This means that a person can still get infected within this period. The side effects of flu vaccine are usually mild and may include mild fever and swelling or soreness at the site where it was injected. If you experience any serious side effects like dizziness or high fever, see a doctor immediately. Every person aged 6 months and above can get the flu vaccine. In addition, the vaccine is particularly important for certain groups. These include children aged 5 years and below (particularly children below 2 years), women who are expectant, people of age 50 and above, and people who have some chronic illnesses. People who live or look after persons who are at a high risk for flu complication such as home caregivers or healthcare workers should also get vaccinated. Flu vaccine should not be given to children below 6 months or a person who has fever until the symptoms have subsided. Also, you may not get vaccinated if you had a severe reaction to flu vaccine before. Get yourself armed with a flu vaccine before flu wears you down! By Rebecca Muthoni http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/health/Is-a-flu-vaccine-really-necessary/-/1954202/2656536/-/1394a1q/-/index.html