Flu and Flu Vaccine Information

Recent news reports and statistical information indicate that this year the incidence rate for seasonal influenza (flu) is already high and is widely impacting communities across the nation. The good news is that the flu immunization prepared for the 2012-2013 flu season appears to be very well matched to those flu strains occurring across the country; therefore, preventative measures such as obtaining a flu vaccine may be helpful in preventing the contraction of the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends three major actions to prevent spread of the flu, including:

  • Receiving an annual flu vaccine
  • Taking preventative measures to help control the spread of germs
  • If the flu is contracted, taking an antiviral medication if prescribed by your physician

MSAA’s Chief Medical Officer Jack Burks, MD, recommends the (injected) flu vaccine for most patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). He stresses that individuals with MS should first consult their physician about whether or not to get a flu shot.

Dr. Burks explains, “The decision is up to one’s doctor regarding a flu vaccination. Except in instances where the vaccine may aggravate another condition, I view the flu shot as a high priority for most patients with MS. According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the flu vaccine has not been found to increase the risk of an MS attack. The AAN bases its decisions on the results of clinical trials published in peer-reviewed publications.”

Dr. Burks also strongly recommends consulting your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms, explaining that any delay could put one’s health at greater risk, given the severity of the flu for some individuals. Under the direction of your doctor, starting an anti-flu medication as soon as possible – ideally within the first day or two – is important, since that is when the medication is the most effective.

Please note that for individuals with MS, the recommendation is for the injectable, “inactive” vaccine (and not a “live-virus” nasal spray).

Additionally, individuals who are currently experiencing or who have recently experienced an active MS relapse need to consult with their physician to determine when they may safely obtain a flu vaccine.

Flu vaccines are not recommended for individuals with certain health conditions. Please consult with your physician to determine whether a flu vaccination is appropriate for you.

For more information, please visit the following links:

For more information or assistance, individuals with MS, family members, and other members of the MS community may contact MSAA’s Helpline at (800) 532-7667, or email MSAA at: MSquestions@mymsaa.org.

This article has been reviewed by MSAA’s Chief Medical Officer Jack Burks, MD.