The centers for disease control and prevention has warned that the current pandemic usually leads to more serious illness, hospitalization and death. Moreover, this year’s vaccine may not be as effective as usual. What is a girl?
We asked Natasha Withers, a member of the FITNESS advisory board at One medical group in New York City, to ask her if she should be stabbed (yes!). . What else can we do to keep the season healthy? Your question, your answer.
So what is a vaccine mismatch?
Every year, clinical researchers take influenza strains from around the world and design vaccines to prevent winter strains from invading your area most likely. Since this year’s vaccine was made, the main strain of the flu virus we see in North America has mutated.
There are two main types of influenza viruses: type A and type B. Influenza a usually leads to more widespread and severe outbreaks than B so far this year. The current strain, A H3N2, is named after major antigens (proteins on the surface of the virus), and your body (with the help of A vaccine) neutralizes the virus.
However, these antigens mutate in a process called antigen drift, a rapidly evolving form that means current vaccines are not as effective as usual.
There is another way flu viruses can mutate, and more significant changes in H and N are known as antigenic changes. The process has made the virus so numerous that new strains have been given a new name (for example, H1N1 or swine flu). When this happens, most people are not immune to the new strain and, as in 2009, could have a severe flu pandemic. Fortunately, no antigen has changed this year.
I haven’t got the flu vaccine yet. Should I bother?
The antigen drift we see will not render current vaccines useless. Obtaining a flu vaccine will still protect you from other flu strains circulating this year, and for many, it will still provide some protection against the mutant H3N2 strain. The CDC therefore still recommends vaccination.
What if I have a cold?
If you start to feel flu-like symptoms, stay at home and get enough rest and fluids. Acetaminophen (such as tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (such as Advil, Motrin) have fever and physical pain.
And talk to your primary care provider. She may recommend a short-term antiviral drug, tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs are not miracle workers – they can shorten the duration of flu by up to a day and may slightly reduce the risk of life-threatening complications. But even a small benefit can have a real impact on people at risk, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
What else can I do to protect myself from the flu?
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, as long as you sing “happy birthday” twice — especially before eating or using the bathroom. Without warm water and soap, use an alcohol disinfectant gel – just rub your hands together for about 20 seconds until the gel evaporates.
Disinfect surfaces in homes and offices to prevent bacterial growth. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
Try to stay at least six feet away from the patient and avoid sharing food or drinks during the outbreak.
To keep your immune system healthy, sleep more than a night (eight hours is ideal), drink more water, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and other unhealthy habits.