buck up and get shot
As many as 50 to 60 million Americans could get the flu this season, resulting in 200,000 hospitalizations and 30,000 deaths. This makes flu, an illness often and mistakenly regarded as a slight step above the common cold, the seventh leading cause of death in the USA.
The best way to prevent the deadly disease is by getting a flu shot each year. Although careful attention must go to high risk groups—people over 50, the very young (under two), pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions—the CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older be vaccinated.
Please stop with the excuses! No, you can't get the flu from the vaccine. It's not just a bad cold—a bad cold doesn't send you to the hospital. And, the flu shot is not just for the sickly. Actually, the most vulnerable members of society, such as newborns or those with weak immune systems, often can't get flu shots. The only way to protect them is to vaccinate everyone around them, keeping flu viruses out of circulation.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that flu vaccines save lives and reduce healthcare costs, only 30% of Americans are getting the shot.
Many people are also worried that the vaccine contains toxic chemicals, like mercury. Concerns about mercury have revolved around a preservative called thimerosal, once commonly used in vaccines but generally phased out of use since 2001. Today, no thimerosal is added to FluMist nasal spray, or to flu shots from single-dose containers.
In the United States, flu season occurs in the fall and winter. It is caused by influenza viruses that infect the respiratory tract—the nose, throat, and lungs. The peak of flu season occurs anywhere from late November through March. Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. The flu virus is highly contagious—it is passed on by coughing up or sneezing the virus onto someone or by direct contact, such as kissing or sharing kitchen utensils. The typical incubation period for the flu is one to four days. Adults can be contagious from the day before symptoms begin through five to 10 days after the illness starts.
The CDC reports that approximately 20,000 children are hospitalized in the United States annually with complications of the flu. For the overwhelming majority of children who come down with influenza, it is an uncomplicated viral infection that resolves in three to seven days. While doctors know that children with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, cerebral palsy or mental disabilities, are at increased risk for complications and death arising from the flu, some healthy children also develop flu complications and even die. The problem is, we cannot predict which children will have such an extreme reaction, and, hence, the recommendation is that all children over six months be vaccinated.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that flu vaccines save lives and reduce healthcare costs, only 30% of Americans are getting the shot. It's unbelievable that so many of us turn our backs on disease prevention. (No wonder our healthcare costs are so high!) Put it this way: if you don't care about your own health, how about your infant son, grandson, pregnant wife or immuno-suppressed co-worker?
Another common excuse for not getting the vaccinated is, "I didn't know I needed it." Huh? You can't go into a grocery store or pharmacy without seeing a sign reminding you to get the flu shot, and many stores even offer incentives, like 10% off groceries if you get the shot.
Do the right thing for yourself, your family and your community: get the flu shot. It may save your life—or the life of someone you love.