Flu Pandemic

Flu Shot

Influenza is a disease that has spread far and wide across the globe. Each year, many epidemics of the disease occur. Due to this, research is being done all over the world to come up with an efficient vaccine for the disease.
Till now, the vaccines that have been developed for the disease can be broadly divided into two categories viz. nasal sprays and flu shots. The nasal sprays contain 'Live Attenuated Influenza Virus' or LAIV. The nasal sprays are deemed safe only for individuals between the age of 2 and 49. Flu shots refer to an injection of the killed virus. Both of these help the body in developing a safety mechanism against the virus, before an actual attack by the same.

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Flu Shot Composition

The vaccination for flu usually contains two specimens of Influenza A viruses and one of the Influenza B virus. The specimens may either be in the killed form or live attenuated form as mentioned above. The particular strain of the Influenza A and B viruses to be used is determined each year by the Global Influenza Surveillance Network of the WHO. It specifies two different vaccine compositions one for each hemisphere.
The Global Influenza Surveillance Network was established in the year 1952. At the present date, this network consists of 4 collaborating bodies called as the WHO Collaborating Centers and 112 National Influenza Centers (NICs) that are located in 83 countries. Each of these NICs perform the task of obtaining the influenza virus specimens in their particular region. The NICs send these isolated virus specimens to the Collaborating Centers, who perform the task of analyzing them genetically. Based on this analysis, the WHO then recommends the flu shot composition for the forthcoming year, that contains those virus strains that are expected to be predominant.
The vaccines are usually manufactured in fertilized chicken eggs and hence, come along with a warning for those allergic to chicken eggs. A vaccine called as OptaFlu has been developed using animal vats instead of eggs. It is expected to solve the problems caused by chicken eggs.
Flu shots usually contain Thiomersal. The controversy regarding the toxicity of the drug has recently been laid to rest by the US government. It has concluded that the drug is not toxic and can be used in vaccines.

Who should be Vaccinated?

The vaccine helps in reducing the chances of a person having flu. Hence, in general, anyone can take a flu shot. However, medical practitioners recommend that the following individuals should have a flu shot:

Flu Shot Side-effects and Risks

Flu shots contains the killed virus and hence, does not lead to influenza-like symptoms. The milder flu shot side effects due to the vaccine, usually disappear in a day or two.
Presently, research is being carried out to find a vaccine against the H5N1 virus. The process is proving to be difficult, as the virus is currently in its emerging stage and is undergoing mutations frequently. Few of the vaccines that have been developed against the H5N1, have proved to be only 54 % effective.