Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a serious disease that affects millions of people each year. It may require hospitalization and can sometimes lead to death. Influenza infections affect people differently, and every flu season is different.
This year, flu activity is high and viruses are circling everywhere. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a flu vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and lessens its spread to others. When more people get vaccinated, the flu is less likely to spread through their community.
How Do Flu Vaccines Work?
Seasonal flu vaccines are available as a shot or nasal spray. They work by causing antibodies to form in the body a few weeks after vaccination. The antibodies protect against flu infections with viruses that are in the vaccines.
Who Should Get Vaccinated?
The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for people who could get pneumonia or other complications if they get the flu. They include pregnant women, senior citizens and people with diabetes, asthma and chronic lung disease. Those who live with or care for these people should also get vaccinated.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Some people should not get a flu vaccination without doctor approval. They include children younger than six months, people with chicken egg allergies, seriously ill people with fever and those who have had a reaction to flu vaccines.
What About Optic Neuritis?
Optic neuritis is swelling of the optic nerve, a bundle of fibers that transmit information from the eyes to the brain. This condition may cause pain and temporary vision loss. Bacterial and viral infections, including influenza, may cause inflammation of the optic nerve.
Unfortunately, neurologists discovered a link between optic neuritis and the vaccine. It was discovered in the late 1990s, following vaccination against seasonal influenza. Because of damage to the optic nerve, flu vaccine injury claims have been filed with a federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Are Flu Vaccines Dangerous?
Interestingly, optic neuritis is just one disorder associated with the flu vaccine. Researchers have found links between influenza vaccinations and other nerve disorders like brachial plexus neuropathy and partial facial paralysis. Flu shots can cause other problems too, like muscle weakness, memory loss, breathing problems and even heart disease.
The evidence shows that flu vaccines can pose health risks for some individuals. However, seasonal influenza affects millions of people each year, and flu infections can also be quite dangerous. People must weigh the benefits against the risks to determine if vaccination is right for them.