Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Don't be lame. Get your flu shot.

I'm getting a little tired of hearing this: "I got the flu once after getting the shot, I'll never get it again." No, you didn't.

Also, at what point did your primary care provider become "government" or in the pocket of Big Pharma? The recommendation to get your flu shot if you are able is not some government conspiracy or ploy for pharmaceutical companies to make oodles of money. Guess what? Your doctor doesn't work for the government and pharmaceutical companies make more money on erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure medications than they ever will on a once-a-year vaccine. You may think it's not a big deal if you don't get your flu shot because you're reasonably healthy and it's okay if you get sick for a week. That may very well be true. But consider your grandparents, parents of a certain age, and babies and other young ones. Consider your friend or family member or acquaintance or stranger on the bus that may be immunocompromised due to cancer treatments. Cancer is BAD ENOUGH without having to worry about catching influenza from someone that just doesn't "believe in vaccination," like getting vaccinated is on the same level as believing in leprechauns. Consider what it means to miss an entire week of work. I came down with influenza last year, two weeks before my work had its flu shot event. It was awful. Body aches so intense that the weight of my own body was almost too much to bear. Fever spikes up to 103 degrees. I never want to go through that again. You shouldn't be so flippant about it. 

Here are some flu facts:

Fact: Influenza kills. Over a period of 30 years between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people per season. During a regular flu season, around 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. Children die too; 107 children under age 18 died from influenza during the 2016-17 season. These deaths very well could have been prevented by vaccination. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that between 2010 and 2014, of 291 deaths in children 6 months to 17 years, only 26% had been vaccinated against flu before getting sick. We can do better for our kids. We can do better for our parents and grandparents.

Fact: You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Flu shots are made either from a dead virus or with no virus at all, depending on which shot you get; it's biologically impossible for the flu shot to give you influenza.

Fact: The shot itself and what your body does to make the antibodies that protect you can cause body aches and possibly a low-grade fever. Don't be a wuss, that's not influenza.

Fact: It can take up to 2 weeks after getting the shot for your body to do what it needs to protect you. So, you could potentially have come in contact with influenza before you got the shot, or sometime in that 2-week window, and still get sick. 

Fact: The flu mist (nasal spray) is made with live virus, but one that's had its nastiness factors taken away. You may have more localized side effects like runny nose, cough, or sore throat, but the flu mist cannot give you full-blown influenza. Not possible.
         Sub-fact: The flu mist is NOT available this year and I don't know when or if it will be back. 

Fact: The "stomach flu" is not influenza. It's most likely a nasty little bugger called norovirus. I'll talk about that fresh hell another day. Stop calling it the flu.

Here's the thing. I'm not going to lie to you; the flu shot isn't perfect, it won't protect everyone and for some it won't work at all. But it is the best we have and we have to do the best we can with what we have! The recommendation is everyone age 6 months and older that is able should get their flu shot. It's the right thing to do for the herd! Plus, this year's flu season could potentially be a real doozy. We can often look to the southern hemisphere for a clue of how things will go for us. Australia is just entering their spring season and the flu season is winding down. And it was bad. Here's a news article from the country outlining the severity. 

To re-cap: Your primary care provider does actually look out for your best interests. The flu shot won't give you the flu. It will help to protect you and the people around you. Most people age 6 months and older can get the flu shot. Talk to your health care provider to make sure you are able. Do your part and get vaccinated!! Don’t be lame.