What is the connection between autumn and vaccinations?

Although it still feels like summer and no one wants to think that winter is almost upon us, autumn has arrived and with it the ideal time to have your flu vaccine. Annually, 15% of the world population is affected by this virus, which is responsible for 500,000 deaths each year. Despite the campaigns and information supplied to the public in general on the importance of prevention, there are still many myths that need to be clarified:

a) The flu vaccine does not contain live viruses.

b) People who have had the flu vaccine may catch other viral respiratory infections during the winter period, from other viruses.

c) The flu vaccine has a limited protection. This is the reason one needs to have it done annually. The flu virus is also constantly mutating. New viruses are emerging each year to which people who have been inoculated the previous year are not immune.

Influenza is an acute disease that predominantly affects the respiratory system. The virus is transmitted by a person who is infected by the virus, from saliva particles (coughing and sneezing) and also from direct contact (hands).

The incubation period (the time that elapses between the moment when a person comes into contact with the virus and the onset of symptoms) is usually two days, but can vary between one and five days. On the other hand, the contagious period begins 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms which may extend to seven days. In children, this period may be even longer. This is one of the dangers of influenza. The individual does not have the typical flu symptoms, but is infected and can, during this period, infect others.

The symptoms vary between adults and children. In adults, the first symptoms are a sudden onset of illness, high temperature, muscle and joint pain, headache and dry cough. In infants the most frequent symptoms are fever and prostration. Gastroenteritis (nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea) may occur together with respiratory complications (laryngitis, bronchiolitis). Middle ear infections (otitis) are also a common complication in children under three years of age, while in older children the symptoms are similar to that of adults.

It is also important to recognise the difference between influenza and the common cold. In addition to the viruses being different, the symptoms are restricted to the upper respiratory tract: stuffy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, throat irritation and headache. High temperature and body aches are rare.

Despite being a short-term illness (3-4 days) with a full recovery in 1-2 weeks, influenza can cause serious complications for some high-risk groups such as people over 65 years of age and patients with chronic diseases. In these cases, the major problems are pneumonia and/or decompensation of underlying diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart, lung or kidney disease. For these more vulnerable high-risk groups, annual vaccination is of prime importance. In addition to substantially reducing the possibility of contracting flu, if it does occur, the severity of the symptoms is drastically reduced.

It is possible to have the flu vaccination at the Hospital Particular do Algarve in Alvor or Gambelas (Faro) or at any one of the clinics of the group, by one of our nurses, without an appointment or prescription.

Article supplied by the Hospital Particular do Algarve Group, with hospitals in Alvor and Gambelas (Faro)