State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley chatted with readers and answered questions about flu symptoms and vaccines Monday. Read the entire chat recap here.
Should you get a flu shot after you've already had flu-like symptoms?
Yes, once you've recuperated from your current respiratory illness, it would still be a good idea to get a seasonal flu vaccination, because the flu vaccination protects you three different types of influenza, i.e., two strains of type A flu and one strain of type B flu. It is possible to be exposed to different strains during a flu season and the risk of exposure to flu can extend until April or even May.
Is it too late to get shot this year and how long until it becomes effective?
It's definitely not too late, but don't delay much longer. After you get a flu vaccination, it generally takes about 10-14 days to get full immunity from the vaccination. Then that protection gradually wanes over a year's time. This is one of the reasons persons over 6 months old are recommended to get a flu shot every year.
Has all mercury been removed from all of the flu shots? Also, are there currently any heavy metals used as ingredients in flu shots?
Most vaccines that are currently distributed today contain no mercury-containing preservatives, or just a tiny amount of Thimersol that is considered safe. There are influenza vaccines that are Thimerosol-free, so you can request one of those brands of flu vaccine if you are still concerned.
What are the most common flu-like symptoms?
Good question because there are several different respiratory viruses that spread in a community at the same time that influenza is circulating! Influenza generally hits you much more quickly and with much more than a punch than cold viruses. With influenza, most affected persons will have a sudden onset of fever (100- 102 degrees or higher), headache, sore throat and extreme body aches. This rapidly progresses to cough, fever, chills and feeling like you were hit by a truck. Most people who have the flu will not be able to go to work or school, whereas with a cold, people feel sort of miserable with cough, congestion and post-nasal drip, but they still have the energy to do other things.