Getting the flu vaccine can help avoid misery
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News November 8, 2011 10:12PM
Morris Hospital infection preventionist, Gail Steele and hospital employee, Shelly Pfaff. Getting the flu shot takes only a minute and can save lives and misery. SUBMITTED PHOTO
If you’re hesitant about getting a flu shot, here are some reminders of the misery getting the flu can cause:
Symptoms of influenza:
Fever (usually high)
Tiredness (can be extreme)
Runny or stuffy nose
Diarrhea and vomiting (usually more common in children than adults.)
Symptoms usually start suddenly
Complications of the flu can include pneumonia; dehydration; sinus problems; ear infections; and worsening of such chronic conditions as asthma, congestive heart disease and diabetes.
Source: Centers for Disease control, www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms
Updated: December 10, 2011 9:49AM
The greatest motivator for getting a flu shot this month may be remembering a time when you contracted the flu. Recall the misery — the aches, the fever and the headache, the sweating and the chills and the days spent in bed because you just didn’t even have the strength to get dressed and go out the front door.
A common phrase used to describe the flu is “getting slammed” by it.
And then, Morris Hospital infection preventionist Gail Steele said, think of inflicting that misery on someone you love — perhaps a child or grandchild — because you didn’t get your flu shot.
“If you don’t want to bother to get the vaccine for yourself,” Steele said, “do it to protect the little ones around you.”
Entering high season
The flu, or respiratory influenza, starts picking up in November and December, Steele said, and she has already heard of some cases in LaSalle County. It’s coming our way, as it always does this time of year, and now is the time to get vaccinated.
The strains of influenza virus in the flu shot differ each year as medical professionals take stock of what’s affecting other parts of the world a few months before. This year, the shot contains killed viruses for an H1N1 strain — which was the deadly flu virus that appeared two seasons ago — one A-type virus and one B-type virus.
It takes a couple of weeks for the immune system to make enough antibodies to the shot to fully protect us against exposure, so Steele said get it now.
“Now is the time,” she said. “I really think the end of September through October is the best time because you are protected during the flu season, but it’s not too late now. It takes about two weeks for these antibodies to be protective.”
Won’t cause illness
The flu shot does not cause people to get the flu, either, she said, which is a common misconception. Some people wait too long to get their vaccine shot, and when they do, they are fully vulnerable to getting the flu from someone else before their immune system is geared up enough to fight it.
Or, a vaccinated person might come in contact with a flu virus that was not in the vaccine. The medical community can only make educated guesses as to which strain will visit the U.S. each year, and other flu strains make their way in each season.
“The flu vaccine is not one hundred percent effective,” Steele said. “No vaccines are one hundred percent effective. But it is the best protection we have. It’s our first line of defense.”
Steele added that even if we do come down with a different strain, the antibodies we have from the flu shot can make our symptoms less than what they would have been.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine.
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