Preventing the spread of influenza

Fermilab will offer flu vaccinations to lab employees next month. Image courtesy of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals

Fermilab will offer flu vaccinations to lab employees next month. Image courtesy of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals

As fall approaches, thoughts of protecting oneself from influenza, or the flu, come to mind. The flu is a viral infection that is spread through air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or talks. Typically, influenza viruses circulate in the United States from late fall through early spring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to recommend an annual influenza vaccine for all persons older than six months and who have no contraindication to the vaccine or its components. In October, Fermilab will offer employees Novartis’ Flucelvax vaccine, which is administered by injection into the muscle of your upper arm. Information pertaining to the upcoming flu vaccine clinic will available on the ESH&Q and Medical Office websites on Oct. 6.

Flucelvax is an inactivated, cell culture-derived influenza virus vaccine that is indicated for active immunization of persons 18 years of age and older. It protects from the three influenza viruses that are expected to be the most common during this year’s flu season:

  • A/Brisbane/10/2010 (H1N1), derived from an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
  • A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus
  • B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like (Yamagata lineage) virus

This particular vaccine contains no preservatives or antibiotics. There is an extremely small amount of egg protein in Flucelvax. The Centers for Disease Control provides a flow chart (scroll to bottom of the page) detailing recommendations for influenza vaccination of persons who report allergy to eggs. However, it should not be administered to patients with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine, including egg protein.

One concern for those sensitive to latex is the possibility of natural rubber latex being present in the cap of the syringe. There is also a concern for those for whom Guillian-Barre syndrome has occurred within six weeks of receipts of a prior influenza vaccine. It is recommended that these individuals seek immunization from their primary physician or allergist.

Influenza vaccine is generally well tolerated. The most common adverse events occurring in adults within seven days of vaccination were pain and erythema at the injection site, headache, fatigue, myalgia and malaise.

To prevent the spread of influenza, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, ideally with soap and water by scrubbing your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Cough into a tissue or the inner crook of your elbow to avoid contaminating your hands. When possible, avoid crowds where infections can spread easily, drink plenty of water, and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with your hands.

Let’s make every effort to avoid the flu this year!

Caroline F. Hetfield, ANP-BC, Fermilab Medical Office