’With the influenza virus already circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, experts are tracking the trends to know what to expect for this year's flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. According to a flu expert at Baylor College of Medicine, the three viruses currently circulating in the Southern Hemisphere are all covered in this year's flu vaccine.
"Currently, influenza B, H1N1 and H3N2 are circulating in the Southern Hemisphere," said Dr. Paul Glezen, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and pediatrics at BCM.
Although the vaccine is the same as last year, immunity does not persist and everyone over the age of 6 months needs to get the vaccine again this year, Glezen emphasized. Children under the age of 9 who got the vaccine last year only need one dose this year, but children who have never gotten the vaccine before need two doses of the vaccine, said Glezen.
The live, attenuated vaccine, available as a nasal spray, has been shown to be more effective in children. Healthy individuals between the age of 2 and 49 can get the nasal spray vaccine.
Because everyone is at risk of getting complications from the virus or spreading the virus to someone who could have serious complications from the virus, universal flu vaccinations are recommended.
"Unless you have a severe anaphylactic reaction to eggs or a previous reaction to the vaccine, you should get immunized," said Glezen.
Benefits for pregnant women
Because babies younger than 6 months of age cannot be vaccinated, family members and friends who are around them should be sure to get vaccinated to prevent them from getting the virus.
Glezen also points out that studies increasingly show the benefits of the flu vaccine for pregnant women, and they should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Having influenza virus infection in the early months of pregnancy can have serious consequences for the fetus, and having the virus in the final months of pregnancy can have serious consequences for the mother.