Flu shot is virus-specific

From Tots to Teens

December 31, 1996|By Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My pediatrician gives our son a flu shot every fall, . but this year he has been sick already. I know the flu vaccine is made new each year. Is it just not good this year?

"Flu" shots are designed at best to completely prevent and at least to lighten the symptoms of infection with influenza virus.

People tend to call almost any winter illness with fever and cough the "flu," yet there are a number of other viruses besides influenza that cause those symptoms. Flu shots cannot prevent infection with other viruses.

It is possible to get true influenza many times over a lifetime, because the virus changes. The makers of the flu vaccine try to design the vaccine that will be most likely to prevent the virus that will circulate.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

Pub Date: 12/31/96

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