You’ve probably heard how bad the flu is this year with the particularly strong strain of the H3N2 virus. People tend to be sicker for longer periods of time and with stronger symptoms than normal. Already 47 states have reported widespread cases and the number of infected are rising fast.
“We’re seeing people, very high fever, often they’re laying down curled up, looking very unwell,” Dr. Michele Hayek reports with North Atlanta Urgent Care.
Apart from washing your hands frequently, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the virus is to get vaccinated now. “It still offers a lot of immunity even getting it this time of the year,” Dr. Hayek says. “So, I would still definitely recommend getting a flu shot.”
A new large study released by the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday confirms that it is safe for pregnant women to get a flu shot. The research found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of losing a fetus and may prevent some deaths. Research shows that getting the flu while pregnant increases the risk if fetal death.
"This is the kind of information we need to provide our patients when discussing that flu vaccine is important for everyone, particularly for pregnant women," said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a researcher who studies vaccines and pregnant women at Duke University Medical Center.
The new study was led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It tracked pregnancies in Norway in 2009 and 2010 during an international epidemic of a new swine flu strain.
The study focused on more than 113,000 pregnancies. Of those, 492 ended in the death of the fetus. The researchers calculated that the risk of fetal death was nearly twice as high for women who weren't vaccinated as it was in vaccinated mothers.
The study also showed that infants picked up protection for the virus when their mother’s were vaccinated while pregnant. Infants cannot receive the flu shot until 6 months of age, so getting early protection is a huge benefit to protecting their health.
Influenza germs can live on a surface up to eight hours and also can be breathed in when someone coughs or sneezes and the virus is airborne.
Doctors recommend kids scrub their hands long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Also, everyone should try to keep their hands away from their mouth, nose and eyes. Of course this is next to impossible for babies and young children, so the next best thing is to vaccinate.
“There is a long-standing concern about giving any medicine to a pregnant woman. But this study should ease any worries about the flu shot,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The vaccine is safe," she said.