Influenza is a highly infectious disease, and it can be extremely dangerous. It spreads quickly and easily by way of coughs, sneezes and tiny saliva droplets that are released when an infected person speaks. If you are lucky, contracting the flu will cause you to be tired and achy for around a week. If you are not so lucky, you may end up in hospital or even end up dead. Of course, you can somewhat reduce your chances of becoming infected with the flu by regularly washing your hands and abstaining from contact with people who are confirmed sufferers of the disease. However, people who have not yet displayed symptoms can still pass the flu virus on to you, so avoiding the flu is not as easy as it might sound.
The Centers for Disease Control confirm that the flu vaccine offers the best chance of protecting you against the flu, but many people are uncomfortable with the idea of the vaccine and have questions about its safety or effectiveness. Read on to have all of these questions answered.
1) How effective is the flu vaccine?
While it is true that flu vaccines are effective, studies show that different people are protected to different degrees (and there is as yet no reliable way to predict how effective the vaccine will be for a given individual). On average, the flu vaccine is 70-80% effective.
2) How long does the vaccine last?
The flu vaccine should afford you protection for the duration of the flu season, but you will not be covered by the time the next flu season arrives. This decline in protection is the reason why it is important to receive a vaccination every year, even if the viruses contained in the vaccine do not change.
3) What is in this year’s flu vaccine?
The 2013-2014 flu vaccine is made from three different viruses. Two of these (an H1N1 virus and a H3N2 virus) were also in the previous year’s vaccine, but the third is a new addition (a B/Massachusetts virus/2/2012-like virus). These are the three versions of the flu virus that are predicted to be the most prevalent and dangerous during this particular flu season.
4) Can the vaccine cause the flu?
The viruses in the flu vaccine are dead, so it is not possible to contract the flu as a result of the flu vaccine.