January 8, 2010

Never Too Late To Get Flu Vaccine

It's not too late to be vaccinated against the seasonal and H1N1 influenza viruses, say experts at Baylor College of Medicine.

"The seasonal flu usually picks up a few weeks after school resumes from the winter holidays, so this is an important time to get vaccinated," said Dr. Paul Glezen, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at BCM.

H3N2 variant

Although the H1N1 virus was more prominent in the last few months, Glezen says that right now, H1N1 activity is slow. Experts are currently concerned about a new variant of the H3N2 virus, which was present in the Southern Hemisphere during their epidemic season.

"The seasonal influenza vaccine does not contain the new H3N2 variant since it appeared after the vaccine formula was set, but it can provide partial protection against it," said Glezen.

Glezen said that experts are very concerned about this strain because H3N2 viruses cause the highest mortality rate in elderly adults.

"Partial protection can keep the virus from spreading," said Glezen.

Inactivated vs. live vaccine

You can receive both the inactivated H1N1 and seasonal flu shot at the same time, but the live attenuated vaccines must be given at least two weeks apart. The live attenuated vaccine, or nasal spray, gives protection almost immediately, while the inactivated vaccine, or the shot, can take up to two weeks to provide protection.

If you get the inactivated vaccine, but have flu-like symptoms or are exposed to those with flu within the first two weeks, take antiviral medication to protect yourself, Glezen said.

If flu-like symptoms occur, take antivirals as soon as possible to reduce complications from the flu and the risk of spreading the virus to contacts.


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