Influenza, caused by a virus, primarily affects the respiratory system. Influenza is also known as the flu, seasonal flu or respiratory flu.
While the flu vaccine will not protect against all cases of influenza, it does provide significant protection. Each year the flu vaccine is designed to provide immunization against the three main strains of flu researchers predict will be prevalent that year. Even if an individual contracts a different form of the flu, the flu vaccine is likely to provide some protection.
While gastrointestinal illness with vomiting and diarrhea is often referred to as “stomach flu,” this type of illness is not the same as influenza. The flu vaccine does not provide protection against this type of gastrointestinal illness.
During the 2013-2014 influenza season, the vaccine available in the U.S. will again provide immunization for a strain of H1N1 virus. It will also provide protection against a strain of H3N2 virus and a strain of influenza B virus. This year, there will be a limited quantity quadrivalent vaccines available carrying the above strains, plus an additional strain of influenza B virus.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed their recommendations regarding who should receive the flu vaccine. The CDC now recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine.
The CDC considers the flu vaccine to be one of the most important preventative measures against the flu. The CDC also recommends preventative measures such as frequent hand washing, covering a cough, limiting contact with others if you are ill sick and with others who are sick, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
According to the CDC, if you do contract influenza, a visit early to your physician may result in an antiviral medication being prescribed by your physician. These antiviral medications can help shorten the duration of illness and decrease severity.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). CDC Says “Take 3” Actions to Fight the Flu. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm on 9/5/13.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2013). What You Should Know for the 2013-2014 Influenza Season. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2013-2014.htm on 9/5/13.