The Value of The Flu Shot and Anti-viral Medications in Preventing and Treating Influenza

Each year, Americans are inundated with recommendations urging vaccination against influenza. However, for every expert that preaches the benefits of flu shots and anti-viral medications, there seems to be an equal amount of zealots spreading myth-based fear about these medications. With the prevalence of misinformation concerning influenza, it can be difficult for some people to gauge the overall need and effectiveness of anti-viral medications and the flu shot, itself. Luckily, a little knowledge can go a long way at easing irrational fears about influenza medications.

What is Influenza?

Influenza is a highly-contagious virus that causes upper-respiratory illness. Symptoms of the flu often include, high fever, body aches, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Though many consider the flu to be less than serious, the actual statistics surrounding the illness tell a different tale. Although, most healthy individuals do bounce back from an influenza infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 60,000 people die of the flu or flu-related pneumonia each year.

What is The "Flu Shot?"

The influenza vaccination or "flu shot" is an injection that contains an influenza virus. Unlike the nasal-spray flu vaccine which contains only weakened influenza, the flu shot contains a dead flu virus. In effect, the vaccination prompts the body to develop antibodies that help protect against the probability of becoming sick with the flu. The effectiveness of the vaccine depends not only on the age and relative health of the person receiving it, but also on the genetic strain of the particular influenza virus encountered. Put simply, if a person who has received a vaccine encounters a different strain than the one contained in the flu shot, they would be afforded only partial or sometimes no protection. Getting a flu shot is about decreasing the odds of contracting influenza. Although, it can prevent infection and sometimes decreases the severity of illness, the flu shot does not offer complete security against influenza.

What Are Anti-viral Medications?

Unlike vaccinations, anti-viral medications are used after a person has already become ill with the flu. The medications, which include, Rimantadine, Amantadine, Zanamivir, and Oseltamivir, work by preventing the duplication and overall spread of the influenza virus within the body. Though, they are not capable of curing the flu, they are highly effective at hastening recovery and can provide life-saving assistance to those who are susceptible to flu-related complications. These medications are most successful when administered early in the infection cycle before the flu virus has had ample opportunity to spread.

Who Needs The Flu Shot and Anti-viral Medications?

The very young and elderly are among the most susceptible to flue-related complications, as are pregnant women and those with unrelated health issues. People fitting into these categories should strongly consider getting a seasonal flu shot usually around September. Although, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated decreasing effectiveness of the influenza vaccine on people as they age, doctors still recommend flu shots for the elderly, noting the increase risk of seniors to developing pneumonia and stating that any protection is better than no protection. Those susceptible to influenza complications are also encouraged to accept anti-viral medication treatment should they become infected with the flu.

Even if you are healthy, it is still a good idea to get vaccinated against the flu to both prevent the overall spread of the virus and to escape the general negatives that come with a bout of influenza. Many people either believe they do not need or are afraid to use anti-viral medications or the flu shot. Though, fear-inducing myths about these products abound, the truth is they are a safe, effective way to prevent and treat influenza, and should be utilized and not feared.

Find out more by scheduling an appointment with a HealthwoRx™ physicians at 954.967.6550.