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Flu Vaccine: Selection Is Based on a Mix of Factors

Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 01:40 AM

Influenza or flu, a disease of the respiratory tract, can have mild to severe symptoms. In persons with strong immunity, symptoms subside on their own within few days of contracting the infection and the influenza virus generally does not gain hold for long. However, for persons having weak immunity, even a mild case of flu needs medical attention. Untreated, weakened immunity may cause the influenza virus to create complications that may even lead to death.

Effective flu vaccines are available to avoid onset of the disease. The vaccine contains dead or inert flu virus. Upon reaching the blood stream, the flu vaccine activates the immune system to produce antibodies against the disease. However, as the flu vaccine itself contains dead influenza virus, it cannot cause the disease. The antibodies created by the flu vaccine-excited immune system remain in the body and the immunity provided by the flu vaccine keeps the body ready to fight off the influenza virus if infection were to occur at a later stage. The flu vaccine and its mode of action have been laboratory tested for establishing the safety of these shots. Moreover, the long history of their use has proved the effectiveness and safety parameters of flu vaccines. The flu vaccine indirectly strengthens immunity against the influenza virus.

Flu shots can be administered to anyone above the age of 6 months or to persons with a history of weak immunity. Flu shots are taken in the flu season or by persons living with someone infected by the influenza virus or prone to the virus (due to age or other health issues).

The flu vaccine is effective for only one season and needs to be repeated annually. Trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines are available to counter the influenza virus strain that changes slightly in each season. Your physician is the best judge to advise you about the kind of shots appropriate during the ongoing season.

The type of flu vaccine (tri- or quadrivalent), the mode of receiving (shots, sprays etc.) and the current state of receiver’s immunity must be considered while selecting a flu vaccine. This selection depends on multiple factors including geographical location, the age of the receiver, and the patient's history of other medical conditions.

Trivalent vaccine protects against three strains and quadrivalent protects against four strains of the influenza virus. This includes two common viral strains and a common influenza virus strain. The quadrivalent vaccine protects against an additional influenza virus strain. Your doctor is the best judge to identify what kind of virus is spreading in your state or city and can advise you about the right flu vaccine.
All persons aged above 6 months can have flu shots. Intradermal shots are available for people in the age group of 18 to 64. These shots use a shorter needle, but are available only for the trivalent flu vaccine. People aged above 65 years require shots with a high dose of the killed influenza virus. Persons aged above 2 years can use nasal sprays. Cell-based shots (slightly more painful than regular shots) are also a mode for receiving trivalent flu vaccine. These are administered to persons above 18 years of age.
 
A person suffering from fever cannot take the flu vaccine but must wait for the fever to subside. However, persons who have mild infections like diarrhea or a mild respiratory tract infection can take the traditional flu shots. Shots are preferred to nasal sprays for persons having a mild respiratory tract infection. Pregnant women can take flu vaccines, but it is important to discuss both the dosage and the type with the consulting doctor. It's importantto note that nasal sprays – especially that of quadrivalent vaccine – cannot be used by pregnant women. People suffering from allergies to egg protein or even those with severe allergies but falling in the 18-to-49 age group can take recombinant shots of the flu vaccine.

For persons falling in more than one of the above mentioned categories, there is a choice among shots, sprays, or intradermal injections based on comfort or preference.

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Health-Wire
Flu viruses spread easily and are highly infectious. The preventive flu vaccine is a way to gaining relief. Given the seriousness of the disease and the increase in patients being admitted into hospitals with severe flu symptoms, the government has been running programs to provide free vaccines.
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Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 01:40 AM
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