Have you gotten your flu shot yet? For some, the flu shot is like a badge of honor. For others, it’s the most annoying question of the season. If you’re a holdout, you’re not alone. The CDC reports that fewer than half of Americans get the flu vaccine each year.
But know this: influenza is deadly. In fact, the virus claimed 80,000 lives in the United States in 2017, the highest death toll in the last 40 years.
Dr. David Priest, at Novant Health Infectious Disease Specialists in Winston-Salem and Kernersville, explains why, outside of the obvious reason, the flu shot is so important. And you’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The agent used in the shot is not “live” and you will not be infected by receiving the vaccine.
‘Typhoid Tommy’ at the office
We have all said it before when we didn’t really mean it. “Bless you.” A colleague sneezes into their hand before reaching for the copy machine. They assure you that their clammy complexion and raspy voice is no more than “seasonal allergies,” but you suspect otherwise.
From your cubical a few feet away, used tissues pile up in your shared wastebasket. What kind of “sick” person would be so thoughtless, so unwilling to relinquish a sick day to prevent the spread of germs? Don’t they realize I have a 2-year-old at home?
Bottom line: Don’t be “that” guy.
How much work can you afford to lose?
More than 30 percent of private sector employees in the U.S. receive no paid sick leave, and those without are often low wage earners. When no work means no pay, losing several days of income could really set you back. Why not reduce the risk of getting behind on your car payment or rent?
“It doesn’t matter what industry you work in,” Dr. Priest said. “If you are interacting with the public, there is a risk that you are being exposed to the influenza virus. So, it’s always beneficial to get the flu shot. And, if you feel like you have the flu, you need to stay home to prevent putting others at risk.”
Protecting the ‘herd’
Just as zebras are safer when they stick together, the community is safer when the majority of the population receives the vaccine. This concept is referred to as herd immunity.
When enough people are vaccinated, the chance of germs spreading within a given population is reduced. This is especially important when it comes to protecting people who can’t get vaccinated. Typically, this list includes children under 6 months old and those with compromised immune systems.
“Herd immunity is a really important aspect of influenza season,” Dr. Priest said. “Research shows that even if the flu shot is not overwhelmingly effective in a particular season, the more people who get it, the safer we are as a whole.”
Keeping your unborn baby safer
Studies also show that pregnant women can protect themselves and their unborn children by getting the vaccine. The flu shot reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half. Mothers also pass the antibodies onto their developing baby during pregnancy, which then helps to protect the baby for several months after birth.