Flu shot protects against three strains
October 12, 2010
By Laura Geggel
This year’s flu shot protects against three types of influenza: the H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and H1N1, also known as swine flu.
Flu shots combining vaccinations are not uncommon, said Virginia Mason Issaquah primary care doctor Ted Naiman, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Every year, it’s got multiple different ingredients,” he said. “Basically, what the CDC does is they look at the strains of influenzas the year before that made people the sickest and killed the most people, and they use those to make the next year’s vaccine.”
Influenza, a respiratory illness, can cause a multitude of symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue or vomiting.
Most people recover in two weeks, but sometimes the disease has complications leading to pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections.
Every year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of people get the flu, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends everyone between 6 months and 49 years of age receive a flu vaccine. The vaccination is available as a shot or as a nasal spray, the latter containing a live virus vaccine, meaning that only people with a healthy immune system should get that.
Pregnant women should get flu shots, because their immune systems are compromised, Naiman said. People older than 65, whose immune systems are often less robust, can receive an extra-strength flu shot.
At Virginia Mason Issaquah, people were already lining up last week for their flu shots. Ralph Eikenberry and his wife Marjorie Eikenberry said they haven’t had the flu for at least 30 years because they get their vaccinations.
“It’s an old habit. We do it every year,” Ralph Eikenberry, of Issaquah, said. “It’s better to get the shot than to live with the flu.”
Flu season typically peaks in January or February, but it can start as early as October, “so you should get a flu shot as soon as you can,” Naiman said.
After getting a flu vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to build a resistance. The flu shot contains influenza antigens, which prompt the body to make antibodies that can fight the disease.
“If you get the flu, you’re sick for two weeks and then you fight it off,” Naiman said. “The flu vaccine just does that in advance.”
Some people are wary of the vaccination, afraid the shot will give them the flu itself. A study published in 2010 by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices showed these worries are misplaced. People who received the flu shot reported flu-like symptoms at the same rate as people who received a placebo shot, according to the study, Naiman said.
Usually, about 1 percent of people who receive the shot report these symptoms, he said.
Even people who typically do not get sick should get vaccinated, he added.
“Even if you get a super mild case and only have it for a day, you could pass it on to someone else,” he said.
If someone with the flu comes knocking at Ralph Eikenberry’s door, he said he and his wife would be ready.
“We haven’t had the flu for years,” he said. “We don’t allow it in our house. We have a sign that says ‘no flu allowed.’”
Where to go
Bartell Drugs Issaquah
Find clinic hours here.
Entitled to a 10 percent off coupon for next grocery purchase
Issaquah Valley Senior Center
Swedish Medical Center vaccine clinic
For people 55 or older
Rite Aid Issaquah
Virginia Mason Issaquah Clinic
Clinics Tuesdays 3-7 p.m. and Fridays 8 a.m. – noon
Insurance accepted, no cash