Health officials are urging everyone over 6 months old to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to help avoid another nasty season. And to encourage needle-phobic kids to get immunized, a leading pediatric group is softening its insistence that they get it in a shot rather than a painless nose spray.
Preferentially, we want kids to get the shot, said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Secondarily, if the child is healthy and over age 2, they can go ahead and have the nasal spray. Its certainly better than not being immunized.
Thats right, kids. If you dread the needle, impress your parents by letting them know youd prefer the intranasal live attenuated influenza vaccine and the American Academy of Pediatrics which had not recommended the spray for the last two seasons, says its better than nothing.
Bert Kelly, spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday that the CDC isnt advising any preference for one form of flu vaccine or another.
The most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year, Kelly said. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.
Last flu season was a nasty one. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the 20172018 season ranks as the third most severe since 20032004, and was the first to be classified as high severity for all age groups.
It was a busy year, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said Tuesday. She urged people to get their flu shots by Halloween so the vaccine has time to build their bodys immunity. Basically, everybody needs it.
Excluding the 2009 pandemic, the 179 pediatric deaths reported through Aug. 18, 2018 half of which occurred in otherwise healthy kids are the highest reported since 2004 when influenza-associated pediatric deaths started being reported nationally, the Academy of Pediatrics said.
How effective is this years vaccine? Impossible to say right now, Cody said, because the flu season hasnt kicked in. But she and other health officials say even a vaccine thats poorly matched to the dominant flu strain is better than nothing at all.
Last season, it wasnt as good, Cody said. But whats important to remember is that even if the virus thats circulating is not well matched, you can still get some benefit from the vaccine. So even if you are vaccinated and still get ill, youll probably be less ill than had you not been vaccinated. It does prevent hospitalizations and death.
The Academy of Pediatrics did not recommend the nasal spray in the last two seasons because of inconsistent effectiveness. This year, it is advising limited use of the spray for children who would not otherwise receive an influenza vaccine (and for whom it is appropriate by age and health status).
Swanson said the change in recommendations came after manufacturers made changes to the nasal spray vaccine to improve it.
Its been retested and appears to be more effective, than in the past, Swanson said.
Flu season typically peaks in the U.S. between December and February, the CDC said, and can last as late as May. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
Most people who are ill with the flu can take care of themselves at home, Cody said. The most important thing is that they stay hydrated and dont pass the infection to others. When youre sick, stay home, dont be a hero.
Regular hand-washing and covering a cough or sneeze helps prevent the virus spread, Cody said. Most health plans have advice nurses on call who can help patients and their families decide if they need to see a doctor. Symptoms that would raise a concern include shortness of breath, chest pain and a fever that doesnt respond to over-the-counter medications.
Cody noted that flu vaccinations are widely available most drug store pharmacies now offer them and they are generally covered by insurance.
There should be no barrier, Cody said, to getting the vaccine.
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