Fighting the Flu

If you haven’t gotten the vaccine for the flu yet it isn’t too late! Flu season has already started and will peak in January and February. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. Everyone six months or older should get the vaccine.

If you’re afraid of needles there is now a better vaccination option for you. The flu vaccine is offered not only by shot, but also by nasal spray.

Who is at Risk?
There are many different people that have a higher risk of getting the flu. The following people are more susceptible to the flu:
• Children and infants
• Seniors
• People with disabilities
• People with health conditions
• Travelers and other people living abroad

Pregnant women are a higher risk because pregnancy makes changes to a woman’s immune system. Only the flu shot is approved for women, not the nasal spray. Children are at risk because their immune systems have not yet fully developed. People with arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or HIV/AIDS have an increased risk and can have serious complications if the flu is contracted. The immune system weakens as you get older, so adults ages 65 and older are more susceptible to getting the flu.

The Development of the Vaccine
There are many different strains of the flu virus that circulate every year. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) laboratories develop new vaccines every year for different strains that could become widespread epidemics.

How Does the Vaccine Work?
The vaccine is used to develop immunity to the flu virus by imitating an infection. This infection is not dangerous, nor does it cause illness. This infection causes your body to develop antibodies. Occasionally after the vaccine is given certain minor symptoms are caused. These symptoms are normal and to be expected.

After the infection is gone, your body’s antibodies will remember how they fought the disease so they are able to do it again in the future. It is important to remember that you can still get the flu if you contract the virus right before or after the vaccine is taken because it takes a few weeks for the body to build up the antibodies that it needs.

You can learn more about the flu at http://www.flu.gov/

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