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The Flu and You: February 9, 2012

Like the temperature outside, the winter’s flu season has been mild. But experts warn it’s not over yet. Peak flu season is just around the corner and there’s still time for the virus to ramp up its severity and still time to protect yourself against it.

“If you receive the vaccine and the virus is circulating, in most instances you’ll have immunity because of the vaccine,” says Steve Streed, Director of Infection Control for Lee Memorial Health System.

So far this year there are two main flu subtypes circulating in the U.S. Eleven-percent of the tested cases were H1N1 or swine fly, 50% were H3N2. That strain is concerning because it tends to be most deadly in the old and frail. There is a vaccine that gives the elderly an added boost.

“Specifically designed for people over 65 because it has a higher dose and causes a better immune response,” says Streed.

New research shows a swath of the population may be at risk because they refuse to protect themselves. They’re younger to middle age and many are skipping the vaccine because they believe they aren’t in a priority group.

Janet Cauchi considered it and decided the flu shot wasn’t for her. “I think more for the elderly, I think they are more susceptible, their systems are more rundown. So maybe when I’m older I’ll get it.”

Kim McGlaughlin sees it differently. “Because it eliminates the flu or a certain strain of flu from the community which is a good thing. I know my mother is 87 years old and I worry about her getting the flu.”

Experts have adopted the ‘herd’ mentality.

“The whole idea is to vaccinate as many people as possible because like many diseases influenza propagates, based on a numbers game, the more you reduce the susceptible the less likely it is to propagate in a community,” says Streed.

Creating a wide safety net protects not only you from the flu but those around you.