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Do annual flu vaccinations provide optimum protection?

on Monday, 03 September 2012. Posted in Occupational Health

flu jab 1

Every year as we head into autumn the same dilemma arises for many of us: Should we get our annual flu jab or not? Is it worth it? Is it safe? In this article we look at the reasons for having regular annual flu vaccinations and some of the myths surrounding flu vaccinations…

Why do I need to consider another flu jab?

There are generally two reasons for getting an annual flu vaccine:

  1. Because flu viruses are constantly changing from year to year, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next in order to protect against the most recent and most commonly circulating viruses.
  2. A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time and an annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection

Who decides what is in this years’ flu jab?

Each year, many samples of the current flu viruses are collected from around the world. These latest strains of flu viruses are then sent to one of five World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratories for detailed testing. These laboratories test how well the antibodies in the current vaccine react to the circulating virus and new flu viruses. If required, the latest flu vaccine is then re-engineered to protect against the three influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Each season, this includes an influenza B virus, an influenza A (H1N1) virus and an influenza A (H3N2) virus

What happens after I get a flu jab?

By two weeks after vaccination, your body will have developed antibodies to protect against the viruses in the vaccine. Those same antibodies will help protect you from the influenza viruses you are most likely to come in contact with during the winter season

Healthy people shouldn’t get the flu, right?

Wrong! Anyone can contract the virus whether they are generally healthy or not. Around 15-20% of the population gets flu each year and could pass it on to others, including those who are at risk of serious illness

What about the side effects of the flu vaccination? I’ve heard it gives you flu.

The flu jab contains no live viruses so it cannot give you the flu. For most people the side effects are very mild. This includes soreness around the site of the injection and occasionally some aching muscles or slightly raised temperature

Who should have a flu vaccination?

The flu jab is highly recommended for those in certain ‘at risk’ groups who are at greater risk of developing complications from flu. At risk groups include pregnant women, people with chronic asthma, diabetes, chronic heart disease, those over 65’s and frontline health or social care workers. It is also well worthwhile that all employees be encouraged to have flu jabs. It makes prudent business sense that companies keep their employees at work and fully productive. Vaccination is the simplest and most effective way of safeguarding against the spread of flu within the workforce each winter

What else can I do to slow the spread of influenza?

Some simple measures can help lower the spread of flu:

  • Viruses lurk on skin and household surfaces, so wash your hands regularly, particularly before eating and when you come in from outside. This is especially important if someone near you has been coughing or sneezing.
  • Wipe clean commonly used areas with an antibacterial cleaning product. This includes kitchen worktops and door handles.
  • During winter, avoid non-essential travel and large crowds

Author:

Ross Thomson, a Director of Joyworkz Ltd.

Sources include:

National Health Service, UK, Health for Work Website: http://www.health4work.nhs.uk/

US Centers for Disease control and Prevention Website: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/flu_vaccine_updates.htm

US Dept of Health and Human Services Website: http://www.flu.gov/index.html

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