September, the kickoff for fall, is also the season for flu shots.
“This year’s vaccine is very similar to the vaccine that we had last year, almost identical which is a great opportunity because it allows us to boost your immunity beyond what was achieved in the first shot last year,” says Steve Streed.
Meaning it includes coverage for H1N1 or swine flu. Steve Streed is Director of Epidemiology and Infection Control for Lee Memorial Health System. He is watching strains of H1Nl that have become resistant to antiviral medications, like Tamiflu.
“There’s a number of different mechanisms on how that can happen but the point is is, that a treatment that we thought was going to work wont work. Because the virus has evolved some defense mechanism against that treatment,” says Streed.
Making it all the more important to get the vaccine rather than risk the flu. In 2009 the swine flu hit pandemic proportions. And many people learned a painful lesson about prevention.
“We want to inoculate the herd, meaning if you can make sure that the general population is inoculated then you don’t have huge outbreaks of influenza,” says Dr. Bruce Lipschutz, an internal medicine physician with Lee Memorial Health System.
The vaccine was produced in plenty so supply won’t be an issue. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are at high risk, others with weakened immune system should also make it a priority.
“The people who are most vulnerable to the flu, the people with diabetes or with chronic lung disease or someone who is immunosuppressed from medicines or HIV disease and that kind of thing,” says Dr. Lipschutz.
Flu season starts as early as October, and the vaccine takes two weeks to reach full effect, so better to act now than pay later.