We see the flu shot advertisements each fall, but many of us ignore them. The flu isn’t just a bad cold, it can be a life-threatening viral infection. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics, so it’s up to our immune systems to fight off the illness. Rest, fluids, and fever-reducing cold medications are the only relief, but this infection can be dangerous, especially when spread in a population.
The flu, known as influenza, is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Each year, a new strain of flu develops, as the virus adapts and mutates in response to a growing and more resilient population. As a result, each year, the influenza virus gets more serious.
Influenza infection can affect each person differently. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized for the flu; tens of thousands of people die from the flu each year. This virus is no joke, and protection is of the utmost importance.
How Are Flu Shots Made?
Each year, researchers analyze the influenza viruses of the previous several years to determine what viral type is most likely to reappear in the coming flu season. The viruses are constantly changing from year to year, so the compositions are reviewed each year. Information is gathered on which viruses are making people sick, the extent to which those viruses are spreading, and how well the previous season’s vaccine protects against those viruses.
Year-round surveillance is conducted in over 100 countries to perfect this process and ensure the vaccine’s success. Once a vaccine is developed, it undergoes clinical trials to ensure its effectiveness against the desired strains. Typically, the flu vaccine protects against three or four strains that have determined to be contenders.
Flu Shots Will Not Make You Sick
The notion that the flu vaccine may give you the flu is a widespread myth. It is impossible to catch the flu from the vaccine. There are, however, a few possible side effects that last no more than a day or two. You may experience a headache, stuffy nose, or sore throat. Considering the flu lasts for up to two weeks, makes you feel like you’re dying, and can lead to actual life-threatening complications, this is a better alternative.
Who Should Get The Flu Shot?
Well, everyone. There is a concept called herd immunity, which refers to the populations getting immunizations. If everyone gets vaccinated, the virus has a harder time spreading. Essentially, it stops the flow of the virus as soon as it enters a population and protects the population. This is incredibly important for the flu, as it spreads very easily through the air. Children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are especially at risk of being infected and having flu-related, life-threatening complications.
Getting infected with the flu increases your risk of other complications, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinus infections. Even if you are not immunocompromised, the illness can drag on and be dangerous.
When Should I Get Vaccinated?
Flu season usually starts in October and lasts until May. The sooner you get the flu shot, the better, as it takes about two weeks for it to begin working. In fact, a California child’s death in early September of this year has already been classified as flu-related.
During the two week period, the body develops antibodies, which provide protection against the virus. Just because you got the vaccine last year, doesn’t mean you are immune to this year’s strain. That’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated each year.
Scared of Needles? There is a nasal spray version of the flu shot.
Protect yourself, your family, and the general population this flu season. Get vaccinated. It saves lives.