Protect Against the Flu, Get Vaccinated

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Flu, or Influenza, season is quickly approaching and we need to make sure we are doing all we can to protect ourselves and the children and families we serve against the flu virus. One of the best ways to keep yourself and others healthy is by getting a flu shot. Public health officials are already warning that this flu season is likely to be moderate to severe. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) News, “the 2018-2019 season was moderately severe and the longest lasting U.S. influenza season in the past decade, at 21 consecutive weeks (compared to the average duration of 16 weeks). There were 116 laboratory confirmed pediatric deaths, where the median age was six. Among the 104 children with a known medical history, nearly half the deaths occurred in previously healthy patients. Most had not been vaccinated against influenza.”

We need to make sure we take the flu seriously and are well informed on the importance of receiving the flu vaccine as well as who should be vaccinated. The flu can lead to hospitalization and even death, vaccination reduces the risk of both! The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine yearly. Young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic disease or weak immune systems are considered high risk for having serious complications from the flu. Annual vaccination is required for optimum protection, particularly since flu viruses are constantly changing and vaccines get reviewed and updated as needed. The inactivated version of the vaccine is safe for pregnant women anytime during pregnancy.

Many people elect not to get vaccinated for different reasons that range from feelings of being healthy and never getting the flu, feeling it is an inconvenience to obtain; being afraid of needles or fear they may get the flu from the vaccine. However, vaccination is the best protection! Other prevention strategies are helpful, for example, hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, throwing used tissues away, and avoiding touching your face, eyes nose or mouth.

It is important to increase knowledge in our communities and provide information about access to the vaccine. The ideal time to get vaccinated is by the end of October, since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, however, it is not too late to get the shot during the flu season. The influenza (flu) virus is contagious and spreads through coughs and sneezes, touching contaminated surfaces, kissing, sharing drinks and by handshakes or hugs. According to the CDC people can spread the virus from up to six feet away.

Contrary to popular belief, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness; the viruses in the vaccines have been inactivated and are not infectious. However, it is possible for people to get sick with flu symptoms after receiving the vaccine due to being exposed to the flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or the person was exposed to a virus that is different from the viruses in the vaccine that is designed for protection. It is essential to remember that the symptoms will be less severe, if someone does get the flu after being vaccinated. Symptoms include fever, cough, headache, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, and fatigue. The vaccine is available at many local pharmacies, medical provider offices, as well as the Department of Health for those who do not have medical insurance. However, the law requires children under the age of nine must get the vaccine from their primary care physician.

The AAP supports mandatory vaccination for Health Care Workers and there has been discussion on whether Child Care Providers and Schools should have policies requiring staff caring for children receive the vaccine as well. Children are the primary carriers of the flu virus, however as adults we need to protect the children we care for, especially those who are less than six months of age and can’t be vaccinated. I challenge everyone to receive a flu shot and help build a flu-free community. Staff wellness is vital, healthy workers are productive workers!

Source:  CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics