Flu shot only 50% effective this year

The influenza front remains quiet in the Detroit Lakes area these days, with just one confirmed Influenza A case over at Sanford Health and only a couple over at Essentia Health.

The influenza front remains quiet in the Detroit Lakes area these days, with just one confirmed Influenza A case over at Sanford Health and only a couple over at Essentia Health.

This obvious good news comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control releases a little bad news, that this year’s flu vaccine is not working as well with what are proving to be the most prevalent strains.

People who come into contact with any strain of influenza this year will have only about a 50-50 chance of being protected by the flu shot.

“The predominant strain has been influenza A (H3N2) and appears the strain has changed or mutated and may not be as good a “match” as predicted,” said Erin Volden, a nurse practitioner out of Sanford Health in Detroit Lakes. “However, it is still recommended to receive the flu shot each season for anyone six months of age and older.”

According to Volden, not only will the flu vaccine still give a person the best “shot” at avoiding influenza all together, it can also help lessen the severity of the influenza illnesses and potential complications if a person does contract the illness.


“The more people who are vaccinated means the less influenza that can be spread around the community,” said Volden.

But as health officials are busy trying to plead their case for the flu shot, there are some common misconceptions out there that often stand in their way.

I get sick from the flu shot

“The flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” said Jackie McKenzie, infection preventionist for Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes, who says it takes two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective, so people can easily still be infected during that time.

“When you get a flu shot, your body produces anti-bodies that will fight the virus, so if you start to feel a little under-the-weather after getting a flu shot, it’s just your body’s response to injecting something foreign into your body,” said McKenzie, who says if somebody really does have influenza it will likely feel like they “got hit by a Mac truck.”

“They’ll know - it’s very different,” she said.

I should wait to get the flu shot so it doesn’t wear off

Health experts say if somebody hasn’t gotten their flu shots yet, now is the time.


Not only is the aforementioned two-week activation time an issue, but peak flu season typically hits in January.

How long a flu shot stays effective in a body is dependent on how each body reacts to it (or how quickly the flu virus mutates during the season), but health officials agree it should last from October throughout the flu season for most.

The flu is a stomach bug

It’s not.

A common misconception is that the flu means a person is throwing up or has diarrhea.

In fact, those things are not as often associated with influenza, which is what the shot protects against. (except sometimes in children).

Influenza can prove deadly, so CDC officials are encouraging people more at risk - babies, elderly, pregnant women or those with underlying health conditions - to seek medical attention right away if they suspect influenza.

Symptoms include a high fever, sore throat, coughing, runny or stuffed nose, headaches, body aches, chills, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.


What’s really out there

While influenza has remained at bay for Detroit Lakes area residents, there are other illnesses rearing their ugly heads.

Strep throat and gastrointestinal illnesses are going around right now, according to McKenzie.

“We are experiencing an increase in the volume of respiratory illness seen in the emergency department,” said Dr. Bud Belk, medical director of EHSM Emergency Department.

“It is important to encourage fluids and maintain fever control when dealing with respiratory illnesses,” he added.

McKenzie adds that implementing a good hand-washing regime during this time can greatly reduce the spread of illnesses.

“It’s so simple, but it’s amazing how effective it can be,” she said.


Paula Quam joined InForum as its managing digital editor in 2019. She grew up in Glyndon, Minnesota, just outside of Fargo.
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