Preventing Flu This Season

By Lauren Wanko

Six-year-old Max Samuels just got his annual flu shot at pediatrician Dr. Robert Murphy’s office.

“It’s been on my calender as a reminder every year,” said his mom, Laura.

“You can’t right now prevent enterovirus or Ebola, except with proper precautions. This is something you really can prevent,” Murphy said.

“It’s not 100 percent effective. We do recommend everyone receive it because it’s the best protection against the flu available,” said Lisa Grohskoph, medical officer for the Influenza Division of the CDC.

Eight-year-old Sammy Samuels proudly shows off her band-aid.

When asked how it felt to get a flu shot, Sammy said, “It really didn’t hurt. It’s worth it.”

Flu activity right now is low throughout the country and in New Jersey. This year the CDC issued a new recommendation.

“The ACIP voted to recommended that for children who are healthy 2 to 8 years, nasal vaccine should be used,” said Grohskoph.

The agency says recent studies suggest that the nasal spray flu vaccine may work better than a flu shot in younger children.

“It’s not necessary to find that vaccine specifically if it’s not readily available. The main thing is that people get vaccinated,” said Grohskoph.

A flu vaccine contains a killed flu virus, whereas the nasal spray has a weakened, live virus.

“A live virus and a killed virus both create an immune response. The live virus perhaps creates a more robust or quick response,” said Murphy.

Dr. Murphy and the CDC say both are effective, but Dr. Murphy only administers the injectable flu vaccine in his office.

“We always had to be concerned about immune compromised states, so if anyone went home to someone on steroids or chemo, sneezed and transmitted the virus, we didn’t want to take the chance,” he said.

Those with a history of asthma or wheezing also should not be given the nasal spray. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.

So far, Dr. Murphy’s office has given 200 to 300 flu shots. The doctor says that number would have been even higher had it not been for a shipment delay in the vaccine in mid-September. He says the supply’s back on track and the office even added an additional nurse three days a week to meet the growing demand for the flu vaccine.

As of mid-October, the CDC says seven influenza vaccine manufacturers are projecting 151 million to 156 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available this flu season. Even though flu activity is low now, Dr. Murphy predicts a peak in flu cases later in the season.

“Once people are indoors, in cold weather, it’s a great breeding ground for the flu,” Murphy said.