CAMAF Flu Vaccination

CAMAF Flu Vaccination

The winter season is upon us – the season for colds and flu. The sunny skies are starting to disappear and are slowly being overtaken by chilly mornings and evenings. Are you prepared to deal with the unpleasant realities of this season?

In this newsletter, we bring you facts about flu vaccination, to help you reduce your risk of catching flu this winter.

What is Influenza?

Influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract (infecting lungs and upper airways), which is transmitted by the influenza virus. It is usually spread by the coughs and sneezes of a person who is infected, and may cause fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle pains and tiredness. Flu can make chronic health problems worse or lead to pneumonia, which could lead to death.

The flu viruses are in circulation in the winter months with a general onset in the first week of June, although this varies.

What Are The Symptoms of Flu?

It is common to confuse flu with a bad cold. Flu and cold symptoms may include a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, and cough. These are some of the symptoms that a person with flu will have, which do not generally occur with a cold:

  • high temperature
  • cold sweats, shivers
  • headache
  • aching joints, aching limbs
  • fatigue, feeling utterly exhausted
  • gastro-intestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, are much more common among children than adults.

The symptoms may linger for about a week. The feeling of tiredness and gloom can continue for several weeks.

How Can I Avoid Getting The Flu?

The best way to protect yourself from catching flu is to get the influenza vaccine every year. The vaccine is administered with a needle, usually in the arm. It is approved for people older than six months, including healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions.

The flu vaccine is developed each year according to the prediction of strains that will be in circulation for that season. Because the strains evolve continuously, the flu vaccine should be administered every year. It takes about 10-14 days after vaccination for protective antibodies to develop.

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Who Should Be Vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is recommended for the following groups:

  • Children (6 months to < 5 years)
  • Elderly people (>65 years of age)
  • Pregnant women – irrespective of stage of pregnancy
  • Morbidly obese people with obesity related health conditions
  • People with existing chronic diseases
  • Children aged 6 months to 18 years of age receiving chronic aspirin 12 therapy
  • Residents of old-age or nursing homes and other chronic care or 11 rehabilitation facilities
  • Medical and nursing staff in contact with high-risk cases
  • Those who are family contacts of high-risk cases
  • Anyone who wishes to protect themselves from risk of developing the flu

Is There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Get Vaccinated?

Yes. The following people should talk to their doctor before getting the flu vaccine:

  • People who have had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past
  • People who have an allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who previously developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a reversible reaction that causes partial or complete loss of movement of muscles, weakness or a tingling sensation in the body) within six weeks of getting the flu vaccine
  • Children younger than six months of age
  • People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait until they feel better before receiving the flu vaccine.

If I Get The Flu Vaccine, Can I Still Get The Flu?

Yes. Even with a flu vaccine, you aren’t 100% protected. Each year, the flu vaccine contains three different strains of the virus. The strains chosen are those that are predicted to be in circulation for that season. If the choice is right, the vaccine can be as much as 70% to 90% effective in preventing the flu in healthy adults.

Individuals who are <2 years and >65 years of age or are immunocompromised have a lower protective immune response than others. However, the vaccine does offer these high risk groups some protection, which means, even if you get the flu after being vaccinated, your flu symptoms can be milder than if you didn’t get the vaccine.

The influenza vaccine will not protect against the many other viruses that circulate during the winter season and cause other respiratory infections.

Is The Vaccine Safe?

Yes. The flu vaccine has an excellent safety record. It is still the most effective way to protect you against flu and its complications.

There are very few side effects which usually pass quickly. These include mild inflammation at the site of the injection, fever, sore muscles, runny nose and vomiting. Any extreme allergic reaction should be treated promptly.

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Can The Vaccine Still Be Given Once The Flu Season Starts?

If you fall into the ‘risk groups’, you should still be vaccinated even if you did not receive the vaccine before the start of the flu season. The season typically continues until August/September each year.

Since the vaccine takes 10-14 days to be effective, you will not be protected if you are infected with flu in the interim.

Can I Get The Flu Vaccine If I Am Pregnant or Just Had The Baby?

Yes, it is recommended that women who are or will be pregnant during flu season get the flu vaccine. Pregnancy can increase your risk for complications from the flu.

It is also safe to get the flu vaccine while breastfeeding your baby. The vaccine cannot cause you or your baby to get sick.

Is There A Vaccine For Pneumonia?

There is no vaccine for any type of pneumonia. However, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) is available for adults who have risk factors for pneumonia. The PPSV vaccine is recommended if you:

  • Are 65 years of age or older
  • Smoke
  • Abuse alcohol or have cirrhosis
  • Have certain chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or19lung disease
  • Have a compromised immune system due to HIV/Aids, 18chemotherapy, kidney failure, organ transplant or a damaged spleen or have had your spleen removed
  • Have sickle cell disease
  • Have cochlear implants.

The pneumococcal vaccine cannot prevent all types of pneumonia. However, it can reduce your chance of contracting the disease.

Preventing The Spread Of Flu

To prevent further spread, the following measures are advised:

Eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep to boost your immune system
Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids
Symptomatic treatment for cough, fever, nasal congestion, etc.
Cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands often.

Your CAMAF Vaccination Benefits

The pneumococcal and flu vaccines are available on all CAMAF options under the “Immunisation” benefit and are subject to your annual immunisation limit. Please consult your benefit brochure for your annual limit.

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