’Tis the season to get a flu shot

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It’s a pretty hectic time right now and with the holiday coming up, it’s easy to feel like things are getting out of hand.
But there’s one thing that you can control: Getting a flu shot. There have been all kinds of opportunities to get a flu shot this season — and free at that!
Health departments all across Tennessee held special flu shot clinics this past week in an effort to increase the number of people vaccinated in the state.
Although winter is just getting started the flu season is already here and we can expect many more weeks of the annual seasonal flu epidemic to spread across the state. The flu vaccination is still the best protection we have against this serious and deadly illness. The vaccine that can help prevent illness in you can also save another life from illness or death if they were to get your flu, a kindness to others that just might save your own life.
A misconception is that the vaccine doesn’t work. Here’s the truth: It does.
The CDC stated that over the 2016-2017 year, “flu vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.” The vaccine significantly reduces death related to influenza among children and reduces the severity of the illness among those who were vaccinated but still got the flu.
Even if you missed this week’s flu clinic at the Carter County Health Department, the shot is still available at most chain drug centers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans older than 6 months get vaccinated each year. That means you.
That’s because the flu — despite being known for causing fatigue, chills and nausea — is deadly. A report from 2010 estimated that over a 30-year period, the virus was associated with an average of 23,607 deaths, mostly among the very young, the sick and the elderly.
But that grouping of people is the one that needs you to get vaccinated the most. Vaccines aren’t perfect, but they work much better when more people are immunized. That concept is called ”herd immunity,” which is how modern science has been able to stomp out diseases like polio and diphtheria.
The concept works because once enough people are immunized, outbreaks become significantly less likely. Those who get a flu shot can still get the flu, but the possibility that the virus spreads to another person who is also immunized is greatly reduced, meaning that the virus doesn’t have free reign to sweep through communities. If fewer people are immunized, outbreaks are more common and more people can get sick.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of herd immunity is that it protects those who can’t get immunized, whether the person is too young to get a shot, allergic to the vaccine, or has a religious or principled reason to reject the shot. Because again, if there are enough people who are immunized, the risk of an outbreak that would potentially sicken those who aren’t is reduced.
Just because you didn’t get the flu last year, or any of the years before that, doesn’t mean you won’t get it this year. Also, if you participate and add to your community’s herd immunity, you’ll be helping your loved ones stay healthy, too.
If you’re an adult and get the flu, it means missing time at work and for younger people it means staying home from school. If you’re a parent with a sick child that can also involve missing work.
Overall the complications are uncomfortable and potentially costly.
Other fun flu facts courtesy of the CDC website include:
• People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins
• The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about two days, but can range from about one to four days.
• Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
The last fun fact emphasizes that the time to get a flu shot is now. But if somehow you neglect to get a shot early in the season, it is worthwhile to get the shot later as well.
Factoring a flu outbreak over a community the impact adds up pretty quickly in terms of personal health and economic costs.
Pretty much everyone gets sick from time to time, but the flu is one disease that can be avoided. We recommend getting yourself vaccinated at your earliest convenience to give yourself the chance to enjoy the healthiest winter possible.

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