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Don’t let the flu get to you

Most of us think of the flu as nothing more than a nuisance. We feel horrible for a few days, we may have to take time off work or school, we get better, and life moves on. But the impact of the flu can be serious, and there are steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you.

Here’s why:

Getting the flu shot can prevent you from contracting the flu, keep your work or school life running smooth, and prevent possible serious flu-related medical problems arising in you or those you meet.

The flu is caused by the influenza virus. While it only causes a temporary illness in most healthy adults, it often causes serious medical complications in infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Complications of influenza include pneumonia, febrile seizures, and secondary bacterial infections. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate there are between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths per year due to influenza in America. To prevent these complications of the flu, we must prevent people from contracting the flu in the first place. When more people get the flu shot, fewer people get infected and in turn, there are fewer people to spread the infection to those around them.

Even for those of us in good health, the flu causes major lapses in productivity and the pace of life. Important tests, big games, work projects and family events may all be put in jeopardy if one gets sick at a critical time. According to a widely acclaimed study in the Vaccine scientific journal, projected annual lost earnings due to sick days and loss of life from the flu in America are calculated to amount to a whopping 16.3 billion dollars. By getting vaccinated, you help prevent yourself from missing out on the rest of your life due to being sick.

People often have doubts about getting the flu shot. These include thinking that the flu shot will make them sick and getting sick despite the flu shot. Let me explain why these aren’t solid reasons to avoid getting the flu shot. First, the flu shot doesn’t infect you with the flu. The vaccine has only portions of the virus, not the whole virus itself. This gives your immune system practice to combat the influenza virus without getting infect. You may feel a bit groggy for a day or two because of your immune system response, but you will never get a full-blown flu due to the vaccine. Second, while the flu vaccine is very good at preventing the flu, it’s not perfect. Scientists change the flu shot annually to cover the most common strains of the influenza virus in that specific season. It’s possible to get the flu after getting a flu shot, but it’s not very likely. Just because you got infected one year with a rare strain of the flu doesn’t mean that the vaccine was of no benefit. It still protected you from the more common strains of the flu which were more likely to get you sick.

To keep yourself from contracting the flu and helping protect your family and co-workers from the same, you should get a flu shot. It helps prevent serious complications in those with poor health, keeps you from putting your life on hold due to illness, and plays a part in keeping a healthy community.