Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

Why flu should be in the headlines instead of Ebola

By Dr. David Rideout

There is no doubt that the media has been focusing on the Ebola health concerns, but there is a far greater health threat to Americans; the seasonal flu. Each year millions of people are affected by the flu virus, thousands are hospitalized and thousands die from the virus. The following is some interesting information about the 2014/2015 flu season.

What flu viruses does the 2014/2015 shot protect against?

Dr. Rideout(RXcolumn)The “flu” is not just one virus, but can be caused by several different viruses. The vaccine is formulated each year to protect against the main viruses expected to be circulating during the upcoming season. For 2014/2015 three different viruses are expected to be the main culprits: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, Influenza A (H3N2) viruses and Influenza B viruses.

It takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop the antibodies to protect against the flu viruses. The flu season can be very unpredictable, but usually peaks between December and February. Outbreaks can continue to occur well into the Spring, so getting a flu shot in December or later can still be effective.

Will this season’s vaccine be a good match for the viruses?

Each year, the vaccine is formulated for the viruses that research suggested will be the most common that season. The vaccines are formulated many months in advance of the actual season, and there is some uncertainty in the process. Also, flu viruses are constantly changing from season to season and even during the course of one flu season. With these factors in mind, there is the possibility of a less than perfect match between the viruses covered in the vaccine and the viruses circulating. Even if the vaccine is not a great match for that season, the vaccine still provides protection because the antibodies made in response to the flu vaccine can sometimes provide protection against different but related strains of the flu.

Although a poorly matched vaccine is not as effective as a well matched vaccine, it still provides some level of protection. This is why the CDC still recommends the flu vaccine for anyone 6 months or older and especially for people at high risk of serious flu complications. The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best way to protect against the infection.

Is there a treatment for the flu?

If you have had your vaccination, but still come down with flu symptoms, see your doctor. There are anti-viral drugs that can make you feel better and help lessen the severity of the illness. They also can help protect against flu related complications, like pneumonia.

Dr .David Rideout is the lead physician at Doctors Express in the Saugus Center, one of 11 Eastern Massachusetts offices, offering seven-day walk-in urgent medical care. For more information visit our website at


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