You’ve, no doubt, noticed the signs for the availability of the seasonal flu shot. But if you’re like most people, you typically see these signs while on the way to and from work or maybe when you’re running errands. The flu shot is just another task that keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list, due to the pressing issues of daily life.
Still, that’s no excuse: it’s advisable to bump up the flu shot to the top of your agenda. Why? Well, a weekend spent with symptoms inclusive of high fever, aches, excessive fatigue, headaches, sore throat, congested nose and dry cough don’t typically make for a Sunday Funday. Think you’re immune to the flu? Well, most of the people currently afflicted with boughts nausea, vomiting and diarrhea generally thought they were immune to flu season, too.
If symptoms alone aren’t persuasive enough for you to act on getting that flu shot, here’s some statistics: Faces of Influenza, the American Lung Association’s Influenza Prevention Program, cites that one out of five people within the United States will contract the flu virus this year. Complications of the virus will send over 226,000 Americans to the hospital; additionally, such flu-related complications will contribute to the deaths of approximately 36,000 people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should have ideally gotten vaccinated in September because that’s when the influenza season starts. Nevertheless, rest assured, procrastinators: it’s still not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccinations are typically offered from September until January (and often later than that), as most outbreaks occur at the start of each year.
In terms of this year’s vaccination, the 2010-2011 flu shot contains an inactivated vaccine to protect against last year’s H1N1 as well as the H3N2 and influenza B viruses (there are different flu strains every year). For those not keen on needles, the nasal-spray vaccine is also an option. This particular form of the vaccine contains a live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV), or a weakened virus, to prevent against the flu. Again, though the virus is weakened, you cannot contract the flu from the vaccination.
Who should get vaccinated? The answer is, really, almost everyone -- specifically, children and adults 6 months and older should get vaccinated. The CDC further pinpoints high risk persons who are even more susceptible to the flu: pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old (those younger than 2 years old are at an even higher risk), people ages 50 and older and people with serious medical conditions or who live in nursing homes. Additionally, people who have dealings with health care workers or with children less than 6 months should seek out immediate vaccinations.
Conversely, people with allergies to eggs, or those who have had a reaction or have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (from a prior vaccine) should consult with their doctor as to whether or not they should get the vaccine. Children under 6 months of age should not be vaccinated; furthermore, people with fevers should wait until it passes prior to getting the flu vaccination.
If you’re afraid you’re going to contract the flu from the vaccine, there’s no reason to fret: you can’t actually get the flu, because the virus used in the shot isn’t live. However, there are side effects of the shot that may include a low grade fever, aches, nausea and swelling (of the injection site). Such symptoms may start soon after the vaccination is given, but they usually last one to two days. Give the vaccine two weeks, and your body’s already creating antibodies to build and strengthen the immune system against strains of the virus.
So even though you’re busy, stop putting off the flu shot. Drop by your local pharmacy, doctor’s office, grocery store, library (what have you), to get vaccinated. That way, should you encounter the strain of the virus by way of The Obnoxious Coworker who doesn’t cover his mouth when he sneezes -- or maybe from Miss Contamination, who uses your lip gloss without even asking -- you’re less apt to pick up the dreaded flu.