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Why The Flu Vaccine's Still Your Best Shot Against Getting Sick


Flu activity remains high in North Texas.  Dallas County has reported five flu-related deaths this season. There have been two in Tarrant County.

With Texas and 45 other states reporting widespread flu activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared a flu epidemic. Part of the blame goes to the current flu vaccine. It's less effective against Influenza A or H3N2 - the more severe strain causing the majority of cases.

However, Dr. Glenn Hardesty says get the shot, if you haven’t already. The emergency room physician at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital talked about the vaccine and the flu season in this edition of KERA’s consumer health series, Vital Signs. 

From Dr. Hardesty’s interview…

What kind of flu activity are seeing at the emergency room: You see the very young and the very old, as in most disease processes, those are  the two groups that are affected the most. We’ve also seen people who have gotten vaccinated who have gotten the flu, but a much more mild form of the flu tan those who have not gotten the vaccine.

Why you should still get the flu vaccine, even though it’s less effective this season: It does help some in preventing the more severe form of the disease. It’s probably close enough (to the H3N2 virus, which mutated) to help the body mount an immune response. I’ve seen this clinically with patients. The ones who have gotten sick with very bad cases of the flu this year are the ones that were not vaccinated. The ones that come in with milder symptoms, they’re the ones who were vaccinated.

Reminder about the flu shot:  The flu shot has to be given ever season. One mistake I’ve seen patients make is “Did you get your flu shot?” “Well, yes.” Well, when did you get it?” “I got it back in January.” Well, no, it’s only for that flu season this year. And it comes out for August to October. The vaccine is kind of geared toward that predicted flu season. Also, the vaccines fade over time. That’s why we have to give boosters with most of our vaccines.

Should you go to the E.R. if you think you have the flu? Typically not, unless you have severe cases of people not being able to breathe. It’s often better served at a different environment - a doctor’s office, convenience care clinics.

Best treatment for the flu: Prevention of the flu - getting the flu immunization. If you’re sick, stay from people who are not sick. If you do come down with the flu, there are some medications that can help shorten the course of the disease: Motrin or Tylenol to help keep the fever down. Tamiflu? If you get it within the first day or so of the disease, yes, it’s recommended and can help. But it’s not a treatment to where you can take the pill and feel great the next day. It’s a virus and has to run its course.

For more information:

CDC: What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season 

Symptoms and Treatment of Flu

10 Home Remedies for the Flu