For those of us heading into winter, we are also heading into another flu season. With vaccinations and CLL, whether or not to vaccinate is based on whether the reward outweighs the risk. So while the risk associated with live vaccinations outweighs the reward, with flu vaccinations, even though our ability to produce antibodies falls with age and with CLL progression, the potential benefits still make it well worthwhile compared to the serious risks associated with the illness. Also, how can you encourage your family and friends to have the flu vaccination if you don't? You will still gain protection if those around you are less at risk of being infected, even if you haven't greatly benefited from the vaccination.
For those of us particularly at risk from the flu, the traditional systems for measuring the spread of flu infections inform us what the risk was one or two weeks ago, not what it is now. For example, the USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 'current' summary of the key flu indicators is for the week ending October 25, 2014, which is nearly two weeks old:
And here are the UK weekly national flu reports (thanks MaudMarie)
The incidence of flu infections can change rapidly; just look at the accompanying plots, which shows the flue trends for the past few years for my country and the state where I live. What's more, as you can see from the plots, when the incidence of flu infections will peak and how bad a given season will be, varies greatly from season to season. We are now coming into summer, but the this year's flu season for my state was by far the worst of the last seven years. Public hospitals were overflowing and patients were stuck in ambulances for hours awaiting admittance.
The above plots were taken from Google Flu Trends, which is available in most countries and states (but unfortunately not for the UK):
Google Flu Trends works by analysing certain search terms to estimate flu activity. The paper below goes into how effective Google Flu Trends is in producing an almost real time report of the incidence of flu infections:
As the CDC summary says "Flu activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks. People who have not already gotten a flu vaccine for the 2014-2015 season should do so now. "