Getting vaccinated against the flu will be even more important for South Africans this winter after the Northern Hemisphere experienced one of its worst flu outbreaks in recent years, resulting in the death of nearly 30 children in the United States alone. Residents in Europe and North America were unfortunately poorly prepared, as the flu vaccine that was made available to them did not provide adequate protection against two new strains of the virus.
Fortunately a new vaccine, which is now available in South Africa, has been produced to match these changes in two of the three strains. “The flu vaccine is usually available in South Africa in early March but delivery was delayed this year due to the fact that the vaccine had to be modified to better match the strains of flu that are currently doing the rounds,” notes Dr Annamarie Richter, medical director at Netcare’s Primary Care Division.
Dr Richter explains, “Each year flu vaccines are modified to comply with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccines available for the Northern Hemisphere’s flu season in 2014/2015 unfortunately proved to be only 23% effective in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
With this winter’s flu strains proving to be even more virulent, Dr Richter advises that South Africans get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it takes about two weeks after vaccination for protective antibodies to develop. “Children over six months, the elderly, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection and severe flu-associated complications, so it is vital that they get their flu vaccinations now. Complications from flu could include pneumonia, bacterial infections, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and neurological conditions. However, it is never too late to vaccinate.”
“There are a few misconceptions about flu vaccinations, including the belief that you can get flu from these vaccines. It is impossible to get flu from a flu vaccine as it does not contain any of the live virus. There may be some mild side effects such as minor headaches, a slight fever or swelling and soreness at the injection site. However, a flu vaccination is still the most effective way to protect you and your loved ones against flu and its complications. Even if a vaccine is only ten percent effective, it can still prevent an estimated 13 000 hospitalisations of older people in one flu season in the United States, according to the CDC,” adds Dr Pete Vincent of the Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Family Medical and Dental Centre in Tokai.
Three advantages of the flu vaccine, according to Dr Vincent, include:
The vaccine not only shields you from getting flu, but it also protects those around you who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, lung disease and heart disease.
Although flu vaccines do not always completely prevent contraction of this virus, they do make your illness much milder if you get sick.
The risk of hospitalisation and death from this virus is significantly reduced with flu vaccinations.
“It is particularly important that people wanting to get vaccinated choose reputable facilities. This will ensure that the vaccine includes those strains recommended by the WHO for the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season and will also guarantee that the vaccine is legally registered in South Africa. The vaccines are available from Netcare Travel Clinics, Medicross family medical and dental centres, Prime Cure clinics and the Netcare pharmacies located in the group’s hospitals,” concludes Dr Vincent.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Primary Care Division
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson or Meggan Saville
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