Flu season is here – hope you are vaccinated. In my hometown in the southwestern US, there was a patient who tested positive for Influneza A in early October. This is early in the year for the flu. When I was in practice people often waited until cold winter months to get the vaccine, which could potentially be too late for them.
There are important things to remember about the flu. It can be DEADLY!
This can be especially true in the very young, like our grandchildren, or the elderly, like our friends and selves, as well as those with other medical conditions.
Another misconception is that the flu can be treated with antibiotics. Since the flu is viral and not bacterial, the infection is resistant to our common antibiotics. Treatment is typically directed at a person’s symptoms once they have become infected with the virus. Antiviral medication must be administered within 48 hours of becoming ill.
Think of how your Parkinson’s disease has affected you already. Imagine adding fever, headaches, chills, more muscle pains, fatigue, congestion, and sore throat. If you contract the flu, you could be sick for up to two weeks causing additional burden on your caregivers.
Since it takes several weeks to build immunity or protection, the vaccine is administered from late August until late spring of the following year. This tells us it’s never too late to get the flu. Therefore, it’s never to late to get flu vaccine in attempt to prevent infection. In the last several years, flu cases have popped up here as late as May.
By delaying your flu shot, you run the risk of not only exposure to the virus, but also to a vaccine shortage. It’s recommended that anyone from 6 of age and up should get a flu shot and anyone 65 and over should get the high-dose flu shot which allows for more protection for those who are at risk such as elderly population who often have other conditions. Options exist for delivery mode, people with allergies, and more.
Is the vaccine 100% effective? Unfortunately no. Nothing is 100% effective. The current flu vaccine was developed this past spring in anticipation of which viral strains will be responsible for the current flu season. The original virus can mutate making the current vaccine less effective. Also another thing to keep in mind is that people may already contracted the flu virus at the time of receiving the vaccine, but their symptoms have not yet shown up.
There are many websites for more detailed information about the Influenza vaccine. Talk with your medical provider or your friendly pharmacist for more information. Get vaccinated!
Marilyn M. Hart, MD, is a recently retired, board certified Family Practice Physician, residing in Tucson, Arizona. Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Hart attended Thomas Jefferson Medical School and the University of Virginia. She has practiced medicine in four different states and eventually settled in Tucson, where she and her husband, Philip McIntyre, raised their three children and have lived for 27 years. Dr. Hart enjoys spending time with her new grandsons, being involved with music in any form, reading, mahjong cards, museums, and being with people.
In 2017, Dr. Hart was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is actively living and participating in the PD community. She is a PMD Alliance Ambassador.