Flu Vaccines 2011 are already out of the Gate

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Even though it’s only July and we still have 2-3 months before the flu season gets cracking, drug companies and government agencies have been hard at work preparing the vaccines. Some manufacturers are even distributing the vaccines early in an attempt to avoid crippling shortages later in the season.

2011’s flu shots will provide the standard cocktail of protection spreading across a wide range of influenza A and B, which includes the infamous H1N1 strain, known to the pandemic-frightened 2009 world as “Swine Flu.”

(People I know actually made t-shirts that proudly stated ‘I survived the Swine ‘09’).

A quick medical lesson: the premise behind vaccination is that by exposing yourself to a small, innocuous sample of a virus, your body builds antibodies that quickly tackle the small infection. These antibodies are then already in the bloodstream when the bigger, badder version of the flu hits, and your immune system can fight it off without you getting sick.

While vaccination is commonly regarded as the most significant advance in medical history, the immunity for flu shots only lasts long enough to get you through flu season.

That means that if you were vaccinated last year, you should make an effort to be vaccinated again. The CDC recommends the vaccine for anyone six months or older. Different versions of the vaccine have been developed for different age groups.

Here are some things you can do to stay healthy for the 2011 flu season:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before each meal. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) while out in public areas.
  • Get a yearly flu vaccine – this is especially important or the very young and the elderly, who are at risk for more severe flu complications.