Influenza, the flu, a bug, the creeping crud – whatever you choose to call it, ’tis the season. Flu season generally starts picking up in October and peaks from December through March. Medical experts say that ideally, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot by early November. Flu vaccines are updated annually to match the diseases that are currently circulating. This year, only injectable flu shots are recommended.
While it is important for everyone to get a flu shot, there are certain populations at high risk for developing potentially serious complications. These include:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum)
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who have medical conditions
Interestingly, the more people who get flu shots, the better off we all are through a principle called herd immunity – when a critical mass of people are innoculated, a measure of protection is strengthened. The wikipedia entry explains how this works for the flu:
“Influenza (flu) is more severe in the elderly than in younger age age groups, but influenza vaccines lack effectiveness in this demographic due to a waning of the immune system with age. The prioritization of school-age children for seasonal flu immunization, which is more effective than vaccinating the elderly, however, has shown to create a certain degree of herd immunity for the elderly.”
It’s easier than ever to get a shot these days – they are widely available – here’s a flu vaccine finder – just enter your zip code to find locations near you.