Fighting the Flu

Published on 21 September 2015

Over the next several weeks, Clark Kebodeaux, Pharm.D., BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is talking about the upcoming flu season. Last week, he addressed why last year was difficult for so many. Today, he looks toward the future.

What is changing for this year?

Vaccines are made up of either three of four strains of flu virus.

“This year’s vaccine will include two strains which were not in last year’s immunization,” Kebodeaux says.

Each vaccine contains two ‘A’ strains, and either one or two ‘B’ strains. In the spring of each year, a panel of experts comes together to make recommendations about which strain to include in that fall’s vaccination.

In the 2014-15 season, a H3N2 flu strain was the most common in patients. In years when an H3N2 virus is most common, the CDC found patients tend to become sicker. A H3N2 virus was in the 2014-15 vaccination, but it was not a good match for the circulating virus. This year’s vaccination includes the strain which made so many sick last year.

“Whether or not you were sick with the flu last year, it’s a good idea to be vaccinated again,” Kebodeaux says. “You’ll reduce the chance of getting sick again, and if you do come down with the flu there’s a good chance the illness will not be nearly as severe as in years past.”

Healthy adults might not be seriously affected by the flu, but those around them could be at high risk for the flu include young children, family members with a weakened immune system, or an older parent.

“Not getting vaccinated could put those family members at risk,” Kebodeaux says. “There is also a societal factor. Infants under six months cannot be vaccinated, so their safety depends on everyone else.”

This season’s flu vaccines are now available at most pharmacies. No appointment needed. In addition to the flu shot, pharmacists can provide a number of other immunizations. The rules vary by state, so check with your local pharmacist.

Ahead on Thursday, Kebodeaux’s recommendations for the upcoming flu season.

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