COPD and the Flu: What's New for 2018-19?
Well, it's that time of year again. The temperatures are starting to drop, schools are back in session and fall is on the horizon. In fact, the leaves are even starting to change already here in the Colorado mountains!
And with fall, comes a renewed focus on the next flu season. Although the flu season tends to peak in the early winter months between December and February, flu activity is often seen as early as October and November. The flu season typically ends in early spring, but can last as long as May some years. This can vary depending on where you live.
Each year is a bit different from the previous years and can be difficult to predict, in terms of the types of flu viruses that will circulate and their severity. Experts do their best to protect the population, however.
COPD and the flu
COPD is a respiratory illness. So is influenza, commonly called the flu. So, it's not healthy for people who have decreased lung function from COPD to get the flu. This respiratory infection can only further affect your breathing negatively. It will likely lead to hospitalization or even death.
For these reasons, people who have COPD should get a flu shot every year, preferably by the end of October, at the latest. However, even if you neglect to get your flu vaccine before that, there will still be a benefit to whenever you are able to get it before the flu season ends. It may not fully protect you from getting the flu, but it will at least lessen the severity and length of the flu.
What's new with the flu this year?
According to the Center for Disease Control, these are some of the changes this year, in regards to the flu and flu vaccines1:
- Scientists have updated the flu vaccine to better match the expected circulating viruses
- The nasal spray vaccine is once again available for certain populations (not for those over age 49 or for people with asthma or COPD)
- Most vaccines this year are quadrivalent, which means they have 4 components
Vaccines available this year include:
- Standard dose flu shots given into the muscle
- High dose flu shots for older adults
- Shots that contain a substance called an adjuvant that improve the immune response, also for older adults
- Vaccines cultured both in eggs and in mammalian cells (new technology)
- Nasal spray vaccines
Talk with your doctor about which type of flu shot might be recommended for you, based on your age and health status.
The viruses that will be in most flu vaccines this year include:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A(H3N2)-like virus (updated)B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus (updated)
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
Hopefully, those will actually be the viruses circulating this year!
A few things to keep in mind
Don't put off getting your flu shot this year. Check with your doctor to see when flu vaccine is available. You can also get flu shots at many pharmacies. The important thing is to get immunized before flu activity begins in your area.
Once flu season begins, do your best to avoid coming into contact with sick people, especially those with the flu. When out in public, wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap. Don't share drinks or eating utensils with others.
If you should become ill with what you suspect is the flu, then call your doctor right away. When started early, there are antiviral drugs that can greatly improve your outcome with the flu.
Do you have a COPD exacerbation tool kit?