Colds and flu

Updated 08 April 2016

Winter is on its way – and so is the dreaded flu

Flu vaccines have arrived at most pharmacies in South Africa and this year there are two new strains that the jab protects against.

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The flu season is on its way and because each year brings new forms of the flu viruses and you’ll need a new one to protect you this season.

The companies that develop flu shots assess flu viruses in 83 countries all over the world and come up with a vaccine that is safe and effective every year.  

It is advisable to get your flu shot before the winter starts, so that your immunity can be strong when you’re exposed to one of the flu viruses the vaccine protects you against.

Read: Clues found to how different flu vaccines work

The end of March is traditionally when the flu season starts, so get your shot now as it takes between 10 days and 2 weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.

The WHO recommends that it's vital that the following people get the flu shot:

  • Healthcare workers and caregivers
  • People who work in crowded areas
  • Pregnant women and small children
  • People who are on long-term steroids, undergoing chemotherapy, taking HIV medication
  • Those who have liver, lung, kidney or heart diseases
  • People who are over 50

Side effects of the flu vaccine may include mild flu-like symptoms in a small number of people.

The vaccine contains trace amounts of egg protein, which means that people or children with an egg allergy should take care, or ask your physician about possible allergic reactions.

Read: The flu shot is safe for most egg-allergic kids 

What you need to know about the 2016 flu virus:

Q: Which three influenza strains does the vaccine protect us against?

A: 1. A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus

     2. A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus

     3. B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

Q: How do they differ from the 2015 strains?

A: Only the California strain (swine flu) is carried over; the other 2 are new.

Q: What is considered to be the dominant strain this year?

A: This is difficult to pinpoint as different regions may display different activities for different strains. H1N1 and H3N2 are considered the more virulent ones though.

Most medical aids now cover the flu vaccination – in fact, some even reward members who man up and get the jab.  You can get your flu jab at any Clicks Pharmacy and Clinic, or at your local pharmacy. Costs vary between R50 and R100. 

Read more:

Flu viruses becoming more resistant

The three types of flu viruses

How flu viruses change

 

Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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