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Each year, 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to flu-related complications. That number can rise or fall often dramatically based on the effectiveness of the selected flu vaccine, according to Dr. Jorge Parada, director of infection prevention and control at Loyola University Health System.
The newly approved 2011 2012 flu vaccine is exactly the same as the one for 2010/2011, and again will target both the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu virus:
- A/California/7/09 (H1N1) like virus (pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus.)
- A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus.
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
"Southeast Asia experiences the flu first and then it is spread globally," Parada explains. "A panel of influenza experts examines what is happening there and bases the flu vaccine on what they are seeing to prevent and attenuate the disease."
Parada says last years vaccine was effective. "The prediction was right on," he says. "And even though the vaccine is the same this year, people will still need to get a new vaccination."
The flu vaccination is usually good for six months of prevention.
People can potentially catch the flu three times in one season. "There are two species of influenza that typically infect humans, influenza A and influenza B," Parada adds. "And there are two strains of infuenza A, one of which is commonly called the Swine Flu."
Unlike measles, that you get once and never get again, people can get forms of the flu over and over. "The flu virus is not stable and mutates, creating new varieties of the flu," Parada says.
The traditional flu season is December, January and February, with January and February being peak months. Because the flu season can vary, Parada advises getting the vaccine as early as possible.
"The 2009-2010 season was an anomaly because the flu presented early and peaked in Chicago in mid October through mid-November," he says. Because of the potential for an early season, Parada says the Loyola medical community is beginning to offer the vaccination in late summer. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System, is offering the flu vacinations to patients beginning Sept. 1. "In addition to thwarting an early season, the flu vaccination takes two weeks to build immunity, so the earlier you receive it, the better chance you have of flu prevention."
Parada says his organization, Loyola , has a unique culture of safety and "walks the talk" when it comes to the flu. "This is the third year in a row that flu vaccinations are mandatory for staff, vendors, students and volunteers," he says. "Loyola had more than 99 percent compliance for the flu vaccine last year, netting a double risk reduction and a win-win . Staff were protected from getting infected by patients, and patients were protected from the spread of infection from medical staff." In early July, Parada gave a presentation on the success of Loyolas flu vaccination program at the first International Convention on Prevention And Infection Control sponsored by the Worldwide Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.