COLUMBIA, Mo. — In preparation for the 2013-2014 flu season, University of Missouri Health Care has begun offering patients an improved seasonal influenza vaccination that provides protection against four strains of the virus. Traditional trivalent flu vaccines protect against three flu strains, while the quadrivalent vaccine offers protection against four different strains.
“MU Health Care believes providing this new version of the seasonal flu vaccine is the best choice for our patients,” said Stevan Whitt, M.D., chief medical officer for MU Health Care and associate professor of internal medicine in the MU School of Medicine. “Getting a flu vaccine each year is the most effective way to reduce your risk of catching influenza. Because this vaccine guards against four types of flu instead of the traditional vaccine’s protection against three types, it gives even greater protection.”
In the United States, annual flu season generally begins in late October and ends in early May. Each year, manufacturers create vaccines that guard against the types of influenza experts predict are likely to be most common for the upcoming season. Traditional trivalent vaccines protect against two forms of influenza A viruses and one form of the influenza B virus. The new quadrivalent vaccine guards against two forms of influenza A and two forms of influenza B viruses.
“During the 2012-2013 flu season, we saw a larger than average number of patients suffering from influenza B,” said Michael Cooperstock, M.D., medical director of MU Health Care’s Infection Control Department and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital. “This new vaccine will give patients greater protection against influenza B, which caused so much illness last season, as well as influenza A, which typically causes more flu illness in Missouri.”
Whitt and Cooperstock encourage all adults and all children age 6 months or older to be vaccinated against influenza. Each year, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu, and an estimated 25,000 people are killed by the flu. It’s especially important for people most at risk of serious complications from the flu to be vaccinated, including:
- People with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or other lung problems; chronic diseases such as diabetes; and weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5 years old and adults age 65 and older
“Vaccination also is important for people who regularly interact with people at risk for flu complications, such as parents and siblings of small children, and health care professionals,” Cooperstock said. “Protecting yourself also helps protect the people around you.”
MU Health Care will be providing the quadrivalent flu vaccine free to all employees, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1.
During the last flu season, 2012-2013, 99 percent of MU Health Care employees received flu vaccinations, compared to a national average of 75 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
To receive a flu shot, please make an appointment with your primary care physician. To find a University Physician, visit www.muhealth.org/FindAPhysician.