Defense Against the Flu
Last flu season was like none other we have experienced in America. H1N1 was a novel flu because it contained genes from swine flu strains and was highly infectious. Additionally, H1N1 had the highest infection rates among young adults, which is a population not generally considered at increased risk of serious illness or even death from flu. Luckily, H1N1 was not nearly as severe as public health officials had feared.
It is important to keep in mind that influenza can be a very dangerous illness. Every year people are made very sick from flu, with many people dying from the disease. It is estimated that around 30,000 people die each year in the United States from the flu or flu-related illnesses. It is important that we all take steps to keep ourselves and our family safe this flu season by avoiding people who are sick, practicing good hand hygiene, and by getting a flu shot. Everyone 6 months of age or older should be vaccinated for flu unless you have a contraindication to receiving the vaccine.
Flu shot common misconceptions
1. I will get the flu from the flu shot.
You cannot get the flu from a flu shot or the flu vaccine nasal spray. There is a chance that you might have a low grade fever or body aches after receiving the shot, but this is your body’s natural immune response as it develops antibodies to the virus. To learn more about flu shots, visit a previous blog by Julie Stauss, a WakeMed pharmacist.
2. Only certain at-risk populations really need to get the flu shot.
It is especially important for individuals in high-risk groups to get vaccinated for the flu because they are at increased risk of developing flu-related complications. However, this year experts recommend that everyone 6 months of age and up get a flu shot, unless they have a contraindication to receiving the vaccine.
3. If I get the flu shot too early in the season, it will wear off before flu season really hits in February.
Studies do not show that receiving more than one dose of vaccine during a flu season is more effective at preventing the flu. Scientists do believe that every time you are vaccinated for the flu, you build your immunity to different flu strains. This year’s flu shot will include protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus and two other strains.
Flu shots are readily available through your family physician, pediatrician, health department, and even local pharmacies. Get yours today!
Dr. John Holly is an internal medicine physician with Brier Creek Medical Group.