Flu Q&A - pg. 1

Q. What type of flu season are we going to have in 2003-04?

It is not possible to accurately predict in advance what type of flu season we are going to have. However, current surveillance data show that people in the United States are getting sick with flu earlier in the year than usual. Also, in laboratory tests from across the country, a greater proportion of specimens testing positive for influenza are type A (H3N2). Historically, A (H3N2) viruses have been associated with more-severe flu seasons during which higher numbers of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths have occurred.

Q. Will this year's flu vaccine protect me from the flu?

Influenza viruses are changing all the time, and vaccine effectiveness depends, in part, on the match between vaccine strains and circulating viruses. Although the A (H3N2) strain in this year's flu vaccine is somewhat different from the main circulating strain causing illness in the United States so far, laboratory studies indicate that the vaccine should still provide some cross-protection against the circulating A (H3N2) strain.

Q.  Who should get a flu shot?

People at high risk for complications(See Below) of the flu and people in close contact with them (including household members) should get the vaccine.

Groups At Risk for Complications from Influenza

A yearly flu shot is recommended for the following groups of people who are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu:

  • persons aged >50 years;*
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house persons of any age who have long-term illnesses;
  • adults and children > 6 months of age who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma;
  • adults and children > 6 months of age who need regular medical care or had to be in a hospital because of metabolic diseases (like diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS]);
  • children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and therefore could develop Reye Syndrome after the flu;
  • women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season.

*People 50-64 years of age who do not have chronic (long-term) medical conditions might not be at high risk for serious complications from the flu. However, about 26% of people aged 50-64 years have high-risk conditions and are at increased risk for flu-related complications.  Beginning in 2000, a flu shot was recommended for all people 50-64 years old each year to increase the number of high-risk 50-64 year olds who get a flu shot.

Because young, otherwise healthy children are at increased risk for influenza-related hospitalization, influenza vaccination of healthy children aged 6-23 months is encouraged when feasible.

Source:  CDC