Greensboro, N.C. - We all know flu season is about to begin, but even the Centers for Disease Control admits flu season is unpredictable. Widespread cases can start as early as next month and stick around as late as May.
This year, manufacturers plan to produce up to 139 million doses of flu vaccine for the United States. About 30 million of those doses will be a new version of the vaccine that offers more protection. In addition, this year, there are more choices than ever before when it comes to getting vaccinated.
*There's the standard vaccine which protects you from three strains of the flu.
*A new version which protects you from four strains.
*A version that's four times as strong for people 65 and older.
*A version that's a nasal spray instead of a needle.
*A version made without eggs.
"It's not 100 percent foolproof. You can still get the flu. But, if you get the flu and you've been vaccinated, you're going to get less sick than if you didn't get vaccinated. That's very important," Cone Health Infectious Disease Specialist Kees Van Dam said.
Cone Health's supply of vaccines came in this week. Doctors there recommend the version that protects you from four strains. If you do decide to get a flu shot, call ahead to see which versions are available. Doctors and pharmacies don't all necessarily carry every version.
"Some people think the flu is like the common cold. That's not what we're talking about. If you get the flu shot, it's not like you're not going to get the common cold," Van Dam said.
Health experts don't know how effective this year's flu shots will be because the virus can change so quickly. However, research from the CDC has shown doctors are usually able to make a pretty good prediction.
For the latest information about the flu and to find a place where you can get flu shot, visit http://flu.nc.gov.