Flu season is close; It’s not too early to get vaccinated
It’s still officially summer but if you’re feeling sick, you might be coming down with the flu.
“We are seeing flu activity here in New Jersey, we have been seeing low level activity right now,” says New Jersey State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan. “As soon as the flu vaccine is available is when we encourage people to get the flu vaccine because you want to try to get the vaccine as early as possible so that you can get the greatest protection.”
Tan said influenza is completely unpredictable so it’s impossible to predict how severe this year’s flu season will be.
She said experts have to pick months in advance the strains of flu that will be included in a flu vaccine. Those strains can change once the main flu season gets underway, but even if this year’s flu vaccine isn’t a good match for the predominant strains that wind up circulating, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot.
“The reason is because usually the antibody response will protect against many different types of virus strains," Tan said.
So who should get vaccinated?
“We recommend the vaccine for anyone who’s 6 months of age and older,” Tan said. “And certainly people with compromised immune systems or those who are at risk of developing certain complications associated with flu should definitely get a flu shot.”
In case you were wondering, there are two types of vaccines: the trivalent versus the quadrivalent vaccine. Tan says both are fine but the quadrivalent protects against four strains of flu, two type A's and two type B’s, while the trivalent only protects against three strains.
According to Tan, the bottom line is that now is the perfect time to get a flu shot.
“You want to give yourself enough time to get protection from the flu vaccine because it usually takes about two weeks for you to build up the antibodies to protect you against the flu," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on its website that as of now, "flu activity is low in the United States." So far, 40 million doses of 2015-16 flue vaccine have already been distributed to medical facilities throughout the country.
"This season’s vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses," the CDC says.