How Does the Flu Shot Work?

Posted on January 15, 2016

Nearly 1 out of 40 visits to the doctor at this time of year are due to the influenza virus, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to being an unpleasant illness, the flu can have serious consequences for young children, older adults, and immunocompromised people. Thus, it is important for everyone to get the flu shot every year.


Understanding the Influenza Virus

A virus is a type of pathogen that enters the human body and replicates. When the virus enters a cell, the cell mounts an immune response. The common symptoms of the flu are actually due to the body attempting to fight the viral infection. Symptoms often include fever, fatigue, headaches, coughing, and runny nose.

There are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Types A and B are responsible for the majority of human flu cases. Within influenza Type A, there are several subtypes of the virus. Over time, the flu virus gradually changes in ways that force our immune systems to come up with new tactics to fight it off.

How Does the Flu Shot Work?

The flu vaccine contains portions of the actual virus itself. In some cases, the virus is completely dead. In other cases (the “live, attenuated” version of the vaccine), the vaccine contains living viruses that have been damaged. When the vaccine enters the body, the immune system recognizes the virus material as foreign. It then mounts an immune response, creating helpful antibodies to combat the virus. Later, if you come into contact with the live influenza virus, your body already has antibodies to fight the infection.

The Flu Shot Does Not Provide 100 Percent Protection

Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent the flu, according to the CDC. However, it is not 100 percent effective. Some people who get the flu vaccine will still contract the influenza virus at some point this year. For these people, medical treatment by Long Island’s medical center professionals can help ease symptoms.

Scientists must gauge which strains of influenza are most likely to be prevalent in a given year. They typically have good accuracy, but sometimes the vaccine does not contain the correct strains of the virus and is less than 100 percent effective. Regardless, getting an annual flu shot remains the best way to protect yourself against the nasty flu virus.

Visit your Peconic Bay Medical Center doctor to get your flu shot today to lower your risk this flu season.