The common belief is that influenza only spreads during the rainy season, but influenza can spread during any season of the year. It does not only affect small children or people with weak immune systems; it can spread among people of every age. Even those with good health can get infected and pass on the virus to others. The symptoms might be minimal for some, but in many cases, influenza patients are hospitalized and many lose their lives from complications.
Every year, there are between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world who pass away from influenza. In Thailand, 1000 to 2000 people per 100,000 suffer from the virus per year. Unlike the common cold, symptoms of influenza last longer and are more severe. Patients with influenza are at risk of suffering from complications and those with chronic diseases are at an even higher risk of their diseases becoming worse. Life-threatening complications from influenza include pneumonia, bronchitis, and severe repercussions to the heart, including atherosclerosis, and damage to the central nervous system.
There are three types of influenza viruses – A, B and C. Each can cause an instant infection in the respiratory system. The infection starts from the nose and throat before spreading down towards the windpipe and lungs.
The spread of various types of the influenza virus through the years have made it difficult to predict which types will spread in any given season. In the past, Influenza A was the most common. But since the year 2000, Influenza B has spread even more and is proven to be as lethal as its counterpart. In Thailand, the spread of Influenza B has increased every year. As with influenza A, influenza B is equally capable of hospitalizing people and can be just as lethal.
Since the influenza virus types were identified in 1993, the influenza vaccine is continually redeveloped. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) required the addition of influenza B protection into the vaccine, making it more efficient. Thus, the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine was introduced, capable of protecting against these four types of influenza:
Worldwide research has shown that the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine is more effective in preventing influenza.
Everyone should get vaccinated annually before every winter or rainy season, especially those who are at risk for complications. The immune system your body has against influenza weakens every few months while the influenza virus continually evolves. By getting vaccinated annually, your immune system is kept at a high level and is able to protect your body against the latest types of the influenza virus.
You can get vaccinated at any age, starting at six months old. Even women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can get vaccinated with the quadrivalent influenza vaccine.
Those who are at risk of developing complications from influenza include:
Other than preventing four types of influenza viruses, the quadrivalent influenza vaccine also has the following benefits:
Vaccination and Travel Medicine Center, Samitivej Sukhumvit Tel. 0-2022-8742-3
Vaccination Center, Samitivej Srinakarin Tel. 0-2378-9085
“Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed on 1 September, 2015.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 1966