In recognition of CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), healtheo360 is participating in a blog relay with a “Focus on the Family” theme for NIVW. Each day, one of CDC’s Digital Ambassadors will leverage the holiday season to encourage their readers to focus on protecting the family. You can follow the NIVW conversation on Twitter using hashtag #NIVW2015.
Flu season is in full swing and looks like it wont let up until April 2016. When you weighing risks against benefits, flu shots still come out on top because the downsides of getting one are so minimal. Here's what you can do to protect yourself and those around you.
Flu can be unpleasant and certain factors can make you more susceptible to it.Complicating matters and making you a higher risk for the flu are age and chronic illness. Knowing what increases your odds of catching the flu can help you and those around you avoid it. As you age, your immune system weakens, which can allow the flu virus to take a heavier toll on you. There is also an increased risk among seniors 65 and older for getting other flu-related complications like pneumonia. Because folks aged 65+ are also more likely to have a chronic or long-term illness such as COPD, heart disease or lung disease, prevention is better than the cure.
What You Need To Know
Seasonal flu-related complications result in a yearly hospitalization rate of around 200,000 people (CDC). Of these hospitalizations, around 60% were adults ages 65 and older with last flu season, 2014/15, having the highest rates. The most common complication of influenza or flu is pneumonia, most commonly secondary bacterial pneumonia.
How Does Vaccination Protect Me?
Vaccination reduces transmission rates in communities. This is especially important because even if the flu doesn't make one person outstandingly ill, it's possible for him or her to pass it to someone who could end up experiencing more severe symptoms. Another way a flu vaccination helps is by limiting transmission of the virus through what is known as herd (or community) immunity. Herd immunity works when a critical section of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, such as influenza, reducing opportunity for an outbreak. Young healthy adults have stronger immune responses and can recover from the flu easily. Young adults who happen to catch the flu can spread infection to seniors who tend to have weaker immune response due to age, community-wide flu vaccination where more younger people were vaccinated, benefits seniors. Vaccinated seniors boost their immune response and in the same stride reduce their risk for flu and flu related illness.
It takes about two weeks after your flu vaccination for it's protective effects to start. While influenza can be spread through the air (coughing, sneezing) it can also be transmitted via other objects. Standard recommendations of hand washing frequently and avoiding touching your nose and eyes are habits that go a long way toward protecting you. Carrying disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer is also helpful.
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Getting your flu shot might give you a sore arm, but it definitely won’t give you the flu (because that’s a total myth) and aren’t likely to have serious side effects. If you're not sure or have questions about which vaccine to get, talk with your doctor or health care professional.
Remember: CDC says an annual flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. Get your flu vaccine and encourage others to do the same by sharing your flu vaccination selfies on social media using the #VaxWithMe hashtag! Be sure to stop by the other NIVW relay participants’ blogs to learn about flu vaccination for everyone.