fluWhat will winter be like on the South Coast this year? Some parts of South Africa have experienced colder than usual winters the last few years. Unexpectedly cold weather can have a profound effect on people who already have health issues, as well as children and the elderly.

Flu Vaccine for prevention of illness
Port Shepstone Medical Practitioner Dr Ayoob Moosa Bux, who is also a non-executive director on the board at Hibiscus Private Hospital, says that an increase in respiratory infections can be expected and that flu vaccination is a preventative step. “In addition to children and the elderly, those who will benefit from flu vaccine are persons who are at high risk for influenza and its complications because of underlying medical conditions as well as medical and nursing staff who are responsible for the care of high-risk cases.”

Vaccine has proved effective

Any individual who wants to be protected from the risk of contracting influenza can be vaccinated, and employers who are concerned about loss due to large-scale absenteeism can encourage employees to consider this step.  Dr Bux says flu vaccine in healthy adults enjoys an efficacy of between 70 – 90%.  In the elderly, non institutionalized hospitalization is reduced between 25 and 39% and overall mortality is significantly reduced by 39 – 75%.

School children are the major disseminators of influenza and it’s interesting to note that the United States has incorporated into its guidelines the routine immunization of all young children at a specific age whereas in South Africa the guidelines advise the immunization of children at risk.

Flu vaccine and HIV
Immunization of the immuno-compromised patient is considered to be essential. Influenza vaccination of HIV infected individuals is recommended for those whose CD4 counts are between 200-500/ul.  However, those with a CD4 count of less than 200/ul will not have an adequate response.  In these individuals, while immunization is not contra-indicated, it is not actively recommended.

Contraindications are few

Patients with a febrile illness and true egg allergy should not receive the vaccine. Pregnancy is not a contra-indication but vaccination is avoided in the first trimester. Women who will be in their second or third trimester during the influenza season should receive the vaccine, however, as complications from influenza are increased in these women.

Vaccination is only part of the prevention process and cough and sneeze hygiene is particularly important.  This article is not intended as a complete guideline for every individual. If you are concerned about the advisability of being vaccinated discuss it with your own medical practitioner.