LET’S GET SERIOUS ABOUT THE FLU
You may have heard that this is a pretty severe flu season, and chances are you’ve gotten conflicting messages from friends, family, or the news. Let’s separate myth from reality.
“It’s too late to get a flu shot, the season’s almost over.”
- Actually, the season is less than half over and flu cases are still rising. In fact, this is the first season in 15 years all the U.S. continental states are simultaneously showing flu activity. Estimates of your odds of catching the flu this year range from 5% to 20%. You’ve probably played the lottery for far less chance of “winning!”
“I heard the flu shot doesn’t work this year.”
- This year’s dominant strain, H3N2, is one of the most difficult flu strains to control, and the flu shot is not 100% effective in any case. But even if you do get sick, the flu shot typically makes the symptoms milder. Considering the risk of hospitalization or worse, even partial resistance is better than none.
“I won’t get sick, I don’t hang around sick people.”
- Have you touched an airport kiosk or an ATM? How about a shopping cart or restaurant door handle? H3N2 can be spread by contact, or even by breath alone, and by people who never show symptoms. You don’t just have to worry about your contacts, but their contacts, too. And who will you spread it to, in the days before you are symptomatic? Are there any children or elderly around you that you should be concerned about?
“I’ve had the flu before and got over it, it’s not so bad.”
- There are a lot of types of flu, ranging from bad to worse. Unfortunately, H3N2 is a proven killer, one of the most dangerous, and those with immature or weak immune systems are particularly at risk for complications. It’s likely that tens of thousands of people will die in the U.S. alone from flu-related causes this season. While it may not be you, it may be someone vulnerable that contracts the disease from you.
“I got a flu shot and it gave me the flu! I’m not doing that again.”
- It’s not common, but some people have flu-like symptoms from the injection. But this is not flu, just your immune system’s reaction to the inactivated virus in the vaccine. It’s very mild compared to the real thing, and actually a sign that the vaccine is immunizing you. No one can catch the flu from you if you have these symptoms.
“Getting the flu shot is too inconvenient.”
- The flu shot is available at all pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, rapid care clinics, Walmart, and other major outlets all over the U.S. If you are picking up prescriptions, you can get a flu shot while you are waiting for them to be filled. And even a long wait for a shot is better than two weeks of misery, or worse—right?
“All this talk about the flu is making me anxious.”
- Good! The flu is serious business, especially this year. There’s one sure way to have peace of mind, though … get your flu shot!