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It’s flu season, so roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated

While the flu vaccine won't completely eliminate your risk of contracting the illness, it will help you lower your risk of getting a serious infection and recover more quickly. Picture: Reuters

While the flu vaccine won't completely eliminate your risk of contracting the illness, it will help you lower your risk of getting a serious infection and recover more quickly. Picture: Reuters

Published Apr 18, 2023

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As the flu season approaches, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, clinical executive at Bonitas Medical Fund, has emphasised the importance of taking extra precautions to safeguard oneself and loved ones from the flu.

Dr Mkhatshwa has stressed the significance of obtaining a flu vaccine and provides important insights into how to protect oneself during the season.

“Understanding how to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season can make a difference in staying as healthy as possible,” he noted.

His advice underscores the urgency of taking flu prevention seriously this year.

What is Influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.

It can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to death. The flu is most common during the autumn and winter months and can spread quickly from person to person through the air or by touching contaminated surfaces.

The flu is most common during the autumn and winter months. Picture: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Why vaccinate?

While the flu vaccine won't completely eliminate your risk of contracting the illness, it will help you lower your risk of getting a serious infection and recover more quickly, explains Dr Mkhathswa.

Between 6 000 and 11 000 individuals in South Africa per year die from seasonal flu, so getting the vaccine is a wise precaution.

Do I need a flu shot every year?

“The short answer is yes.” Because the influenza virus mutates and evolves, the vaccine you received last year won't protect you this year.

The flu shots for 2023 are Influvac Tetra and Vaxigrip Tetra, both of which come in a single dosage, 0.5ml shots, advised Dr Mkhatshwa.

Your immune system is strengthened by the vaccine and produces more antibodies to help you fight the infection. Before flu season officially begins in May or April, vaccination is advised. Most pharmacies carry the flu vaccine, and medical insurance typically covers the cost.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

Anyone in the high-risk categories is advised to get vaccinated against the flu, including health professionals, 65 years old and older individuals, cardiovascular illness patients, including those with chronic lung disease, chronic renal disease, chronic heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory problems HIV/Aids patients and expectant mothers

Who should NOT have the flu vaccine?

The immunisations are not approved for use in infants younger than six months of age.

People who may have previously experienced a severe reaction to the flu vaccine; if in doubt, consult your doctor; People who may already be showing signs of the flu.

Can the flu shot give me mild flu?

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), no, the flu shot cannot cause flu. Vaccines are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious or with no flu vaccine viruses at all.

However, you might experience some common side effects from the vaccine such as soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given. Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare.

Are Covid-19 and flu viruses similar?

The Covid-19 and influenza viruses, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), can cause respiratory diseases that can manifest in a variety of ways, from asymptomatic or mild illness to severe disease and death.

Both viruses can also be spread by contact, droplets, and any object that can spread infection. As a result, the same public health precautions, such as hand washing and social isolation, are advised to prevent getting the flu or to use it when you already have it.

Am I able to get the flu vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine or booster shot together?

“Yes. However, it is recommended that if you decide to have both vaccines at the same time, one should be on the left arm and the other on the right,” said Dr Mkhatshwa.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.