One of the biggest questions posed to professionals in the healthcare industry each year is, “Why do I need to get a shot every year?” If you are not familiar with the science and history of flu vaccines, the answer may not seem so clear. So let’s examine why it’s best for everyone to get their annual vaccination. And, once you’re ready to receive yours, Freedom Urgent Care is here to help with your family’s flu shot needs in Killeen, Texas. Let’s begin with how strains of the flu virus can change over time.
How the Flu Changes
The biggest reason to get vaccinated with a new flu shot every year is vaccine changes. But this process is not the same every year. In fact, there are two big ways that flu viruses can change. Specifically the “antigenic drift” and the “antigenic shift.”
When it comes to antigenic drift, the virus undergoes small changes in its genetic material. These changes lead to alterations in the surface proteins of the virus, which are called hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). HA and NA are recognized by our bodies and cause our immune systems to have immune responses. These small changes often produce viruses that are closely related to one another. Meaning, the antibodies in your immune system can recognize and respond to similar flu viruses. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your flu shot. Over time, these small changes add up and result in viruses that are antigenically different. If even one change occurs in an important place, antigenic drift can occur, causing your body to not recognize the flu virus. So, this is why it is necessary to update and review the flu vaccine regularly to keep up with the ever-changing virus.
On the other hand, antigenic shifts represent a major, abrupt change. These shifts don’t often occur. The last recorded instance was in the spring of 2009 when an H1N1 virus with genes from North American swine, Eurasian swine, humans, and birds began infecting people and spreading quickly. When a shift does occur, most people have little to no immunity. Flu pandemics are born from antigenic shifts, but not all shifts cause a pandemic. In the last 100 years, four such cases have been recorded, with the last being the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
Receiving the flu shot can help you stay protected this flu season. Viruses are studied throughout the year to determine which strains may be the most prominent during the flu season. If it’s been a while since your last flu shot, or if we’re seeing a shift this year, you could be without the protection you need to stay safe. Receive your family’s flu shots today at our Killeen urgent care clinic.
Receiving Flu Shots With Our Killeen Urgent Care
Most flu shots target the HA surface proteins of flu viruses, potentially keeping you safer than an unvaccinated individual. Additionally, getting flu shots for your family can be easier than ever. Visit our location in Killeen, TX, and receive your vaccinations from professionals who care. If you have any questions for us about flu shots or our other services, feel free to give us a call at (254) 781-5446. Our specialists are available to answer any questions you may have.