To flu shot or not to flu shot – that is the question. The answer may not be clear to you, but one thing is: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning the public that a particularly nasty flu season is expected.
The first deaths from influenza have been reported for the 2019 season, according to Iowa state health officials. Unsurprisingly, the fatalities included two older adults, one listed between the ages of 61 – 80 and the other at 81+. Both were women with contributing health conditions.
As most of us know, the flu can be deadly and countless retail outlets around the country offer flu shots for free. However, many people elect not to be injected with the vaccine due to a variety of health concerns – and the choice is always a personal one.
The CDC, however, is quite clear that everyone over six months old should get vaccinated. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, says the flu season is off to an early start. Schaffner’s comments came during a CDC conference call of the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network. The hospital group was established to help determine just how bad each year is likely to be.
Since the 2019 season appears to be getting an early start, it’s decision time for those who have been procrastinating. The vaccine takes two weeks to ramp up to full effectiveness. Generally, the influenza virus lasts about a week and can include body aches, fever, headache, and exhaustion. Often respiratory signs, which include a cough, a stuffy nose, and sore throat, are part and parcel of influenza.
Different Every Year
All flu seasons are not created equal. The severity of the illness depends on a variety of factors, including the specific strain of virus and how many people agree to undergo the vaccination, which is administered either by an injection or nasal spray. Once the preventative measure is taken, the body then goes about the business of producing antibodies that help protect it from contact with the actual virus. Flu vaccination is not a perfect solution, though. Studies conducted by the CDC show the vaccine generally carries only a 40% – 60% rate of effectiveness.
Perhaps this is why last year’s statistics showed that “more than 48.8 million illnesses, more than 22.7 million medical visits, 959,000 hospitalizations, and 79,400 deaths” from the flu were reported by the CDC.
The vaccine itself is not without risk. It’s injected into chickens, where it incubates and then replicates. Then a fluid that carries the virus is taken from the chickens and killed. Finally, this liquid is mixed with many other ingredients that include thimerosal, formaldehyde, and aluminum salts. This vaccine cocktail has caused skeptics to forego the annual procedure, although “repeated studies have shown that these substances are not harmful in the tiny amounts contained in flu vaccines,” according to Kaiser Permanente.
There are side effects from the flu shot, as well. Fainting, minor aches and pains (sort of a mini version of the flu), and injection site soreness are common reactions. Alternative medicine generally suggests that patients eschew the flu shot because they believe it can be toxic to the body. But for those who like to toe the party line, the CDC strongly urges people to get the shot to give themselves the best shot at avoiding what can turn out to be a serious illness.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.