Flu vaccination is still the best tool we have to help prevent against the flu. Yearly influenza (flu) vaccination is recommended for all people aged 6 months and older. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one season to another. (See information about current flu activity in the U.S. below.) It’s not too late to get yourself and your family members vaccinated this season.
For the 2018-2019 flu season, the CDC and its advisory committee (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) recommend that people get any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine (IIV, RIV, or LAIV4) with no preference expressed for one vaccine over another.
- LAIV4, also known as “the nasal spray” or FluMist, is once again a recommended option for healthy, non-pregnant people between 2 and 49 years old.
You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the vaccine to take effect. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later in the season can still be beneficial. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu. Children who need two doses of flu vaccine should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
While the flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, getting vaccinated can help protect you, your loved ones, and your community against severe flu illness, flu-related hospitalization and even death. A CDC study published in Pediatrics showed that flu vaccination can be life-saving for children. The study found that half of flu-related deaths in children from 2010 to 2016 occurred in otherwise healthy children, only 22% of whom were fully vaccinated. The same study also showed antiviral treatment was only given in about half of all pediatric flu deaths. Nearly two-thirds of children died within seven days of developing symptoms.
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, your family should take everyday precautions such as covering your cough and sneeze, washing your hands often, staying home from work and/or school when sick, and staying away from sick people.
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu® and the recently licensed Xofluza® are also available for treatment of the flu. If taken early (as soon as your symptoms begin), antivirals can lessen symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe illness and flu complications. But, not everyone needs to get antivirals. The people recommended to get antivirals are those who are at higher risk of complications and severe illness from flu including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. CDC recommends that healthcare providers treat patients with antivirals as soon as they suspect influenza, and should not wait for confirmation from lab tests.
According to the CDC, flu activity remains high in the United States. Influenza A(H1N1), influenza A(H3N2), and influenza B viruses are all circulating. The highest rate of hospitalization is currently among adults 65 years and older, followed by children 0-4 years, and then adults 50-64 years. Sadly, a total of 16 flu-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far during the 2018-2019 season.
View the CDC’s FluView to monitor current flu activity in the U.S.