Have you gotten your flu shot?
Well have you?
Because according to the CDC, Influenza activity in the U.S. is currently on the rise. That’s right, it’s off to the latest start in decades, but Flu Season has arrived. I was not exactly surprised to hear this news today, as over the last couple weeks we’ve had at least two patients per day testing positive for influenza. Not that we really even have to test them because they tend to stand out amidst the usual crowd of snot-nosed snifflers. They are the ones who look like absolute H*ll.
What has surprised me is that not a one of the people who’ve presented with the flu bothered to get a flu shot this season. With rationales ranging from “Well, I never get the flu” to “I never get a flu shot, just thought I didn’t need one.” That last one was, to my horror, from another health care professional.
According to the CDC, EVERYONE from age 6 months on up, should get a flu shot. Unless one of the following applies, in which case, you should consult with your physician before getting a flu shot:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
- Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
- People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.
So why is it so important that you get a flu shot?
Because not only does the flu shot protect you (yes, even if you are a young, strapping, healthy specimen of humanity who has never had the flu) from getting the flu and being completely miserable for an extended period of time, it also protects highly vulnerable populations like the elderly, the sick, and children who are most likely to die from the flu. You know, when you don’t get a flu shot, get the flu, and then (even if it’s inadvertently) infect them.
That’s right, this isn’t just about you.
I was on a rotation a couple months ago and the attending was particularly passionate about reminding patients to get a flu shot. Several years ago, they had successfully helped a couple who had struggled with infertility for years to get pregnant. The couple had a beautiful, healthy baby and at a return visit, as part of usual care, the attending reminded the new parents to get their flu shots. One of them refused because they just didn’t feel they needed it. They got the flu, gave it to the baby, and the baby died. The parent later came back and asked my attending to tell their story to all their patients, and make sure all their patients get flu shots. This story is tragic, horrific, and I am absolutely not making it up.
This is why it is so important for EVERYONE to get a flu shot. Not only are you potentially saving yourself from weeks of misery and adding to your immunity for future Flu Seasons, you are potentially saving a life.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot already, you still can. It takes about 2 weeks for full immunity from the shot to be in effect, so do it now.
And while you’re at it, spread the word: CDC’s Flu Vaccination Pledge.