Flu season arrives; CDC says vaccine appears effective

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The CDC endorses vaccines as the best way to prevent contracting the flu.

That time of the year has once again returned: coughing, sneezing and teary eyes are everywhere. Flu season has started.

Last flu season, the vaccine proved to be a poor match for the flu because of mutations in the virus that occurred after the vaccine was already in production.

“Last season reinforced that every flu season is a unique experience,” said William Scaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). “We track flu viruses as they travel across the globe all year long to help us prepare the best vaccines for the coming US season. But influenza is unpredictable. As I like to say, flu is fickle.”

Schaffner said the best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. The vaccine contains protections against a number of different influenza viral strains. Truck drivers can find vaccinations at pharmacies and often at truck show health pavilions. Truckers should consult their employer to see if they will be offering flu vaccines at any company events or terminals.

“And I’m pleased to say that so far, as we track influenza viruses, this year the ones that are causing very early disease are exactly as was predicted,” Schaffner said. “So it looks to me as though the vaccine is going to be well [protective.]”

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the 2014/2015 flu season had the highest hospitalization rate among seniors that the CDC has ever document. Frieden said getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu. For truck drivers opposed to injections, the flu is also available in a nasal format. Frieden said to cover your cough and sneeze, stay home if you are sick and, if your doctor prescribes antiviral medications, take them.

For truck drivers, this means being wary of who they encounter on the road and taking precautions, like these 5 ways to avoid the flu. The flu can slow reaction times and lead to potentially dangerous grogginess. If you feel like you may have flu symptoms, consult a physician for treatment.

Kathleen Neuzil, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the symptoms of flu vary from each individual.

“If you talk to people with influenza, it’s not a cold, it’s not a sniffle,” Neuzil said. “They’ll say, ‘I feel as though I’ve been hit by a truck.’ That’s one quote I’ve heard from a patient. Or, ‘I feel like I’ve been beaten up.'”

Frieden said that while influenza is always changing, current measurements show that this year’s vaccine should perform better than its predecessor.

“So far, what we’ve seen in the Southern Hemisphere and over the summer in the US suggests that this year’s vaccine should be a good match against this year’s circulating influenza,” Frieden said. “But only time will tell for sure.”