Texas Christian University in Fort Worth reports 64 of its students already have the flu. They've given out 2,000 flu vaccines this year so far. Those numbers aren't unusual, the school says. What is unusual, however, is how early the cases came. It had us wanting to verify some questions about the flu.
To answer our questions, we spoke to Dr. Vanessa Charette, a pediatrician with Cook Children's Medical Center. And we also consulted information from the Tarrant County Department of Public Health, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC.
Our first question: Is the flu shot effective?
"The flu shot is effective," Dr. Charette says. "Every year the flu shot covers four different strains of the flu and the CDC does its best job to put coverage for the flu strains they think will be circulating in the upcoming year."
Recent CDC studies show the flu vaccine reduces your risk of the flu by 50 to 60 percent. And if you still get the flu, the vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization for both children and adults over 50.
Our next question: Is this the right time to get vaccinated?
"This is actually a great time to get a flu shot," Dr. Charette says. "We’d love for people to be vaccinated for the flu by October, so since we’re in September, this is the time to come and get your flu shots."
Tarrant County Public Health says on its web site that flu season peaks in February but goes all the way to May. Maximum protection starts two weeks after the shot. And while shots are better earlier, you can still get immunized into January and even later.
Finally: Are nasal spray vaccines an option this year?
"We at Cook Children's are not giving the nasal spray this year," Dr. Charette says. "And that is because the CDC has recommended again this year not to use nasal spray because it has not been shown to be effective."
The nasal spray vaccine is still a FDA-licensed product, but the CDC found it had poor or relatively low effectiveness.
So we can verify, you should get a flu shot-- and you should do it now.