What is the flu?

Written by Neil on .

Influenza, commonly known as the ‘flu,’ is a viral infection that can affect all of us in the community. Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe - including fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, coughing, weakness and tiredness. The infection is caused by the highly contagious influenza virus, of which there are two basic types (A and B).

It is often confused with the ‘common cold,’ which is a more common viral infection, usually causing a runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion. There are more than 200 viruses that can cause the ‘common cold’, however, symptoms are normally mild and will resolve within 1-2 weeks. Influenza, however, is much more serious and can be life-threatening, so thankfully a vaccine is available to protect us and prevent the spread of the virus!

What is in the flu vaccine?

The vaccine contains an inactivated form of the virus, including 2 influenza A subtypes and 2 influenza B subtypes. Each year the vaccine is updated to provide cover for the strains that are most likely to dominate for the approaching flu season. The 2019 quadrivalent vaccine has been updated to provide cover for the Michigan, Switzerland, Colorado and Phuket strains of influenza. The 2019 trivalent vaccine will also be available this year to provide a stronger dose for those over 65 years of age who are at a higher risk of illness from the flu.

Why get vaccinated?

Although hand hygiene and isolating ourselves at home while sick can help, vaccination is the best way we can protect ourselves from the flu. The influenza virus is usually spread through the air when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. You can also catch the flu from touching a contaminated surface with the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose. Getting your dose of the vaccine is the most effective method of preventing us from contracting the flu and, more importantly in some cases, preventing us from spreading it to those in our family or workplace that may be more susceptible to the virus.

If you are caring for or living with someone that is vulnerable to illness then getting vaccinated helps prevent you from being a carrier for the virus and reduce the spread to them!

The vaccine won’t protect you from contracting one of the many ‘common cold’ viruses, but it will protect you from influenza, which is much worse and potentially life-threatening in some groups of the community.

Can I get the flu from the vaccine?

No! This is a very common misconception. It is not uncommon to experience some mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms (including fever or body aches) in the 2-3 days following vaccination. However, it is impossible to contract the ‘flu’ from the vaccine itself, as it is not a live vaccine! Usually, any post-vaccine symptoms are caused by your immune system responding to the dose, which triggers the production of antibodies needed to fight the virus if it were to come into contact with your body.

When should I get vaccinated?

The ideal time to get vaccinated is from late April or early May, to provide cover over the peak months of the flu season (June to August). However, if you are travelling or receiving treatment which can affect your immune system, then it may be a good idea to get vaccinated earlier.

At High Wycombe Pharmacy we offer the vaccination service for the flu, any time or day within our opening hours. All of our pharmacists are trained to administer the dose for those over 18 years old at any time that suits you, with no bookings, appointments or prescription necessary! Stock is available now, so speak to one of our friendly pharmacists today to find out more.

Cost:
$20 for quadrivalent
$10 for trivalent (for those over 65 years)

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