You and Flu Vaccine

Have you had your flu shot yet?

If yes, then you are smart and you do care about your health. If no, then you should worry about your health and get a flu shot. Here are some reasons, summarized from an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (October 23, 2007), why it is important to get flu shot each year:

In Canada, more than 4000 people die from influenza each year.

Influenza comes every year during the winter months (January–March). The specific types of influenza viruses change each year.

Because the influenza virus changes every year, a new vaccine has to be developed each year. If there is a good match, that is how closely the virus in the vaccine matches the type of influenza virus in the community, then the vaccine prevents illness in 70 to 90 per cent of people.

The flu shot protects for less than one year, and it protects only against the types of influenza virus in the vaccine. For the best protection, the flu shot should be taken every year.

The influenza virus can cause severe illness like pneumonia, especially in people who are very young or very old, or who have conditions such as cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes.

People with influenza are often too sick to go to work, school or daycare. There is a sharp increase in the number of doctor visits, admissions to hospital and respiratory outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Infected people spread influenza by coughing or sneezing, or by touching things with their hands after coughing or sneezing.

Adults with influenza can spread the virus from one day before their symptoms appear to up to seven days after their symptoms appear. Children may spread the infection for more than seven days, especially if their symptoms persist.

The combination of receiving the influenza vaccine and cleaning your hands many times a day during flu season can prevent most influenza cases.

The flu shot does NOT cause influenza because there is no live virus in the vaccine.

For best results, the flu shot should be given before influenza comes into the community. The flu shot does not work if it is given after the symptoms have started.

The influenza virus used in the flu shot is grown in eggs, so anyone who is allergic to eggs cannot get a flu shot. Development of Guillain–Barré Syndrome, a nerve disorder, following flu vaccination is very rare (about 1 in 1 000 000 people vaccinated).

Most people do not have any side effects other than a sore arm at the injection site for one or two days.

People at risk of serious complications because of influenza and the people who care for them (e.g, in the health care system or at home) are strongly urged to get the flu shot. This includes
-people aged 65 years or older
-those aged 6–23 months
-those with select chronic health conditions (e.g., heart disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, cancer, renal disease and anemia)
-people of any age who live in a long-term care facility
-pregnant women
-people who provide care to people with the health conditions listed above should also get the flu shot to prevent the spread of influenza.

Healthy people between the ages of two and 64 years also benefit from receiving the vaccine.

I think there are enough good reasons for us to go and get a flu shot. If you haven’t had one then talk to your doctor and get one. Plan for a healthy winter.

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