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The Influence of Influenza: Get Your Flu Shot Now!

Heather Shanty, Author

Flu Myths vs. Flu Facts, presented by the CDC

Runny noses, hoarse voices, body-aches, and phlegm-filled, incessant coughs – the dreaded flu season is once again upon us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year was the worst recorded flu season in 4o years, killing 80,000 and hospitalizing 900,000. This year’s flu season is looking to be just as merciless. The Baltimore Sun revealed that two flu-induced deaths have already been reported in Maryland, with the death toll only expected to rise in the coming winter months. The CDC estimates that every year, five to twenty percent of the U.S. population will get the flu. To put this into perspective, anywhere from eighteen to seventy students out of the 350 in our student body will get the flu this school year, meaning that any one of us could be affected. However, there are simple precautions that we can all take to lessen our chances of getting the flu.

Why should I get my flu shot?

Other than the simple preventive methods that have been drilled into our brains since elementary school- washing our hands and covering our faces when coughing- the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves is get the annual flu vaccine. A recent CDC report says that 80% of children who died from the flu had not been vaccinated against it. Now, I am not here to make you think that not getting your flu shot will result in imminent death, but it is important to remain aware the flu presents real dangers, and for most, spending the busy holiday season bed-ridden with the flu is not ideal.

“I get my flu shot every year, but in the past, I have still gotten the flu. Why does this happen, and is it still worth it to get the flu shot if some people may end up getting the flu anyway?’”- Sara Matvey ‘20

Many who do not get their flu shots avoid doing so because they believe that the flu shot itself will give them the flu. However, according to the CDC, the flu shot cannot actually give you the flu because you are injected with an inactived virus, not a live one.

The slight sickness that may be felt after getting a flu shot results from the temporary side effects, as the flu shot works with the immune system to figure out how it will fight off the flu virus. The CDC also attributes the sickness that some may get after a flu shot to the possibility of exposure to the flu virus in the period of time right before receiving the vaccine or during the two-week period after vaccination in which the immune system is figuring out how it will fight the flu. Sickness after vaccination may also be due to the fact that one may have contracted a virus that the flu shot does not protect against. While flu shots do not protect against every strain of the flu and vary in their effectiveness, flu shots are anywhere from 40-60% effective (CDC), automatically lessening your chances of contracting the flu. So, yes, it is worth it to get the flu vaccine anyway.

If keeping yourself healthy isn’t convincing enough, remember that it is important to get your flu shot to prevent your chances of spreading the flu to its most vulnerable victims: those 65 and older, five and younger, and those with other health complications.

The Future of Flu Vaccines

While flu shots are the best preventative measure we currently have against the flu, there are still improvements that must be made to make them as effective as possible. A vaccine that provides rapid, long-lasting protection against as many strains of the flu as possible would produce more promising and successful results. While we may be far from developing a panacea to the flu, due to the possiblity that a virus may mutate rapidly, scientists are making progress. Just this flu season, flu vaccines were updated to more accurately correspond to circulating viruses, and more flu shots became “quadrivalent- protecting against four flu viruses (two influenza A and two influenza B viruses)- rather than trivalent- protecting against only three flu viruses” (CDC). Due to the efforts of research foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, universal influenza vaccines are set to be tested by 2021. Until then, we can take measures to protect ourselves and others against the flu by maintaining proper hygiene, eating, and sleeping habits; staying home once the onset of symptoms begins, and most importantly, getting vaccinated this flu season.


“Flu Prevention.” CDC Foundation, www.cdcfoundation.org/businesspulse/flu-prevention-infographic.

“Influenza (Flu).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Nov. 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm.

 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “The Influence of Influenza: Get Your Flu Shot Now!”

  1. Sara Matvey on November 26th, 2018 10:20 am

    got my flu shot!!!

  2. Mr. Maerzke on December 3rd, 2018 10:26 am

    I actually hesitated getting my flu shot this year because I was worried about accidentally giving the flu to my daughter (who was only 2 months old at the time). Thank you for the article; very informative and great advice.

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