Seasonal Flu Information

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What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Will new strains of flu circulate this season?
When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
How much vaccine will be available during 2013-2014?
What kind of vaccines will be available in the United States for 2013-2014?
What flu viruses does this season’s vaccine protect against?
How effective is the flu vaccine?
How long does a flu vaccine protect me from getting the flu?
Is there treatment for the flu?
How do I know if I have seasonal influenza, H7N9 influenza, or MERS-CoV Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus)?

What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. Although epidemics of flu happen every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.

Will new strains of flu circulate this season?
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu virus strains to appear each year. For more information about how flu viruses change, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/change.htm.

When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

What should I do to prepare for this flu season?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. Getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year is always a good idea, and the protection you get from vaccination will last throughout the flu season.

In addition, you can take every day preventative steps like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading influenza to others.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even in some schools.
Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.

How much vaccine will be available during 2013-2014?
Manufacturers have projected that they will produce between 135 million and 139 million doses of influenza vaccine for use in the United States during the 2013-2014 influenza season. An estimated 30 million to 32 million of these doses will be quadrivalent flu vaccine. The rest will be trivalent flu vaccine.

What kind of vaccines will be available in the United States for 2013-2014?
A number of different manufacturers produce trivalent (three component) influenza vaccines for the U.S. market, including intramuscular (IM), intradermal, and nasal spray vaccines.

Most of the flu vaccine offered for the 2013-2014 season will be trivalent (three component). Some seasonal flu vaccines will be formulated to protect against four flu viruses (quadrivalent flu vaccines) and will be available as well according to manufacturers. All nasal spray vaccines are expected to be quadrivalent, however, this makes up only a small portion of total vaccine availability.

What flu viruses does this season’s vaccine protect against?
Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Each year, these viruses are used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

The 2013-2014 trivalent influenza vaccine is made from the following three viruses:
an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011; a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.

How effective is the flu vaccine?
It is recommended that the quadrivalent vaccine containing two influenza B viruses include the above three viruses and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus. Inactivated influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups.

How long does a flu vaccine protect me from getting the flu?
Multiple studies conducted over different seasons and across vaccine types and influenza virus subtypes have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired either through natural infection or vaccination) declines over time. The decline in antibodies is influenced by several factors, including the antigen used in the vaccine, age of the person being vaccinated, and the person’s general health (for example, certain chronic health conditions may have an impact on immunity). When most healthy people with regular immune systems are vaccinated, their bodies produce antibodies and they are protected throughout the flu season, even as antibody levels decline over time. People with weakened immune systems may not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination; further, their antibody levels may drop more quickly when compared to healthy people.

For everyone, getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout flu season. It’s important to get a flu vaccine every year, even if you got vaccinated the season before and the viruses in the vaccine have not changed for the current season.

Is there treatment for the flu?
Yes. If you get sick, there are drugs that can treat flu illness. They are called antiviral drugs and they can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They also can prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia.

I am a U.S. resident experiencing flu-like symptoms (e.g. coughing, fever, sore throat, etc.). How do I know if I have seasonal influenza, H7N9 influenza, or MERS-CoV (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus)?

Seasonal influenza, H7N9 influenza, or MERS-CoV infection can cause similar respiratory symptoms. However, of these viruses, your symptoms are most likely caused by seasonal influenza. H7N9 and MERS-CoV are less common and have not been reported in the United States. At this time, H7N9 has only been detected in China. All MERS-CoV cases have been linked to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.

If you are hospitalized for a severe respiratory illness of unknown causes within 10 days of traveling to a country where H7N9 has been detected, or you if you have come in contact with a patient who is to confirmed to have H7N9 infection, you may be tested for this disease. If you have recently traveled to countries where MERS-CoV has been detected and developed a fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after returning to the U.S., contact your doctor. (At this time, H7N9 has been detected only in China. All MERS-CoV cases have been linked to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.) It is not possible to determine whether a patient has seasonal influenza, H7N9 influenza, MERS-CoV infection or illness due to another pathogen based on symptoms alone. However, there are tests to detect seasonal influenza, H7N9 influenza, MERS-CoV infection. Your doctor will determine if you should be tested for any of these illnesses based on your symptoms, clinical presentation and recent travel history.