Seniors should get a flu shot vaccine every year to avoid getting the flu or giving it to others. The flu kills between 3,000 and 40,000 people per flu season. According to one study 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The vaccine is fast and safe and will stop you from the dangers of the flu.
Why Seniors – and Everyone Else –
Should Get A Flu Shot
Flu season is here – again! And with it all the usual rationales for getting or not getting a flu shot. They range from… “I’m so healthy, I never get sick; I got one last year, why should I get another; I’m allergic to the shot; I got the flu anyway…” and on and on…. These are just some of the excuses that people give to rationalize not getting a flu shot. To counter this, here are five reasons why you should get one.
- Flu and pneumonia rank among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. The flu kills between 3,000 and 40,000 people per flu season.
Here, in New York City, the numbers are even higher with the flu virus and pneumonia being the #3 cause of death. People worry about getting Ebola, yet Ebola is much more rare and difficult to contract than the flu. Ebola can only be contracted by personal interaction–primarily through intimate contact with another person. Flu on the other hand is air-borne. You can contract it from someone sitting in the same subway car, café, or even a doctor’s office. The virus can live on surfaces for a short time also, so think about the shopping cart handles, door handles and stair rails you touch daily.
- The flu virus mutates every year so last year’s vaccine is not effective for this year’s strain. All flu viruses have an “H” and an “N” in the name, and each is followed by a number. An example of the swine flu is H1N1. The letters refer to two proteins, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, on the surface of the virus. The numbers refer to slight variations in the form of each protein. The variations are important, because our immune system hones in on these proteins to attack the virus. As the flu travels around the world, it mutates so the vaccine that stopped it last year will not stop this year’s version. The flu vaccine produced each year is developed to fight a particular type of virus. This season people are primarily being vaccinated against three flu viruses: Influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. All three of these viruses are being treated with one injection called a trivalent vaccine.
- A flu shot, will protect your friends and relatives as well as yourself from the flu. Many people feel they are strong enough to fight any bug or they will recover quickly if they do get it. With this line of thinking, they are not considering others whom they may infect. The Center for Disease Control states that most healthy adults can infect others from 1 day prior to becoming sick and up to 5 days after they first develop symptoms. Some people can be infected with the flu virus and have no symptoms but still be contagious. During the time you are contagious you might infect someone who is at a much greater risk than yourself. That can include older people, young children, or people with compromised immune systems such as those with diabetes, asthma, or heart disease. According to one study 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years and older. These people might not have the same strong constitution as you and they are vulnerable to your germs.
- You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The flu vaccine is comprised of dead or inactivated flu so it cannot propagate. The only way you can get the flu is if you were exposed to the flu before receiving the shot. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body but that can take up to about two weeks after receiving the vaccination. If you are exposed to the flu before you get your shot, or within the next couple of days, you could develop the flu, but not from the injection. Some people complain of some stiffness and pain form the needle itself. That should subside within a couple of days. The only people who should abstain from getting a flu shot are people who are severely allergic to egg products or have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Most flu vaccines are made with chicken eggs. The vaccine viruses are grown in the eggs and are allowed to replicate before the virus is inactivated. So people who are extremely allergic to eggs or egg products should alert their doctor. There are other vaccines that have been developed that are just as effective.
- Getting the flu is much more dangerous than getting an injection. Flu symptoms include a fever of 100 degrees F or higher, a cough and sore throat, a running nose, headaches, body aches, chills, fatigue nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can continue for over a week. An injection on the other hand feels like a pinprick and lasts no more than a second. The traditional flu shot is given intramuscularly, that is through the skin and into the muscle. In normal body sized people, the needle is usually one inch long to insure it gets into the muscle. This injection is slightly stronger than the other alternatives and is usually recommended for people who are 65 years and older. The intradermal vaccine is a little less potent and is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The needle is 90% smaller than the needle used for the intramuscular flu shots. It is recommended for people aged 18 through 64. Finally there is a flu nasal spray. Finally, there is a flu nasal spray. This vaccine is sprayed into the nose however it should not be used by everybody. The virus in the nasal spray is a live although quite weak and user may get some flu-like symptoms for a short period of time. The nasa spray is primarily used for children, adolescents, and adults ages 2 through 49.
Whatever vaccine you use, the time to get it is now. The flu season runs from October through May. It is recommended for all ages, from six months of age to the very old. There is no good reason not to get a flu shot. Many large pharmacies and walk in clinics offer the vaccine for a small fee and there are many locations where you can get them for free—including many Health Fairs, churches and health clinics. Be sure to put it on your schedule and get one while the flu season is not yet upon us.
As seen the Community Newspaper Group, November 3-7, 2014
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