Still haven't gotten your flu shot this year? Here are the top five reasons you (and your loved ones) still need to get one:
1. 45% > 0%.
Before every Flu season, a group of scientists, smarter than me and with hard to pronounce titles, meet up to try to figure out which strains of the flu will be rearing its ugly head. I honestly don’t know exactly how they do it, but suffice to say it’s more sophisticated than drawing a name from a hat or throwing darts at a board. Usually they do a good job. So far, this year they didn’t. In particular, they did not predict a “rogue” strain of flu H3N2 which seems to be wreaking the most havoc (about 45% of the H3 strains), and is not included in the vaccine. Rats! The good news: the vaccine does provide protection against some of our most popular, and deadly, strains which can pop up as quickly as this H3N2 strain. Remember “swine flu?” We got you covered.
2. You can get sick. Real sick.
Last year, the flu caused an estimated 400,000 individuals to get sick. Annually, about 20,000 die. Who can get sick from the flu? Anyone. Yes, the elderly, very young, and those with chronic diseases like asthma, seem to get hit the hardest. But, during my years of training, I’ve also watched healthy teenagers die in the pediatric ICU from the flu. So far 11 children nationwide have died this season, the number will certainly climb into 100’s, like every other year.
3. You can get others sick.
Christmas season is the season of charity and giving. But don’t give the gift of flu. That’s mean, and down-right Grinch-y. My Pediatric Unit at Hendricks Regional Health is currently full of sick children and infants with the flu, some of them too young to receive the vaccine. By protecting yourself, you are protecting your community, which includes the most vulnerable.
4. You can’t get the flu from the flu shot.
Let’s stop with this nonsense. The flu “shot” only contains part of the virus to help your body develop a natural immunity. This means creating an immune response that sometimes involves soreness around the injection shot, mild body aches, and low-grade fevers. Unlike the flu, these side-effects are well tolerated, and compared to the actual flu, will not hospitalize you or make you miss even a day of work. The nasal spray contains weakened strains that also will not cause true influenza infection, but you may short-lived mild symptoms. Again, ask anyone who has had the flu, this isn’t it. Finally, immunity takes a few weeks to develop, so it is possible to get infected after vaccination, but before immunity develops fully.
5. It’s not too late!
As mentioned before, several viruses circulate every season, which lasts until spring time. Get vaccinated, protect yourself, your friends, and your community.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist, Hendricks Regional Health
Editor's Note: If you need more information about getting a flu shot, be sure to contact your primary care doctor. If you need helping finding a doctor, give us a call at (317) 745-DOCS. Our Immediate Care Centers offer flu vaccinations to the community as well.