Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Flu season

With the warm weather sticking around, it is a little hard to believe that flu season is just around the corner. On Monday morning, Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to give us more information about influenza and why it is important to start thinking about the flu vaccine now.

Meghan Kulig: When does flu season start?

Dr. Arnold: Influenza can start as early as October and last as late as May. It usually peaks around January or February.

Meghan Kulig: Why is it important to think about a flu shot already?

Dr. Arnold: That's a good point to mention. It can take about two weeks after vaccination for your body's full immune response to develop. As a result of this lag time, you want to think about getting a vaccine before there is a local outbreak.

Meghan Kulig: What are the standard recommendations on who should get a flu shot?

Dr. Arnold: The CDC recommends that people 6 months and older get the flu vaccine.

Meghan Kulig: What kind of flu shot options are there?

Dr. Arnold: There are more options now than there used to be. There is what people may think of as the "traditional" flu vaccine which is an intramuscular shot. That's what I got this year. There is an intradermal flu vaccine that uses a smaller needle and injects the vaccine into your skin. There is a nasal spray option. There is also a high-dose shot approved for people 65 years and older.

Meghan Kulig: Are there any new flu shot choices this year?

Dr. Arnold: Yes, there is a quadrivalent vaccine, which helps protect against four strains of influenza. In previous years, the flu vaccine had been a trivalent vaccine. It was formulated to help protect against three types of influenza: two types of influenza A and one type of influenza B. The quadrivalent vaccine helps protect against two types of influenza A and two types of influenza B. Since it is a new type of vaccine, most of the vaccine available this year is still predicted to be the trivalent form.

Meghan Kulig: Is there one particular kind that is more highly recommended?

Dr. Arnold: The CDC does not recommend one type of vaccine over the other. Age and health-status requirements vary between the different types of vaccines. Your health care provider can help you select the option to best suit your needs.

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