The 2017-18 flu season was one of the most deadly in decades - more than 80,000 Americans died last year from the flu, almost 200 of them were children. Every year we see young, healthy people dying of influenza and influenza-related complications. This year, we've already seen flu deaths in other parts of the country - North Carolina and Kentucky - and we just heard reports of the first child death this season in Florida. Every year we see 80-90% of flu-related deaths in kids are ones who didn’t receive the vaccine.
The absolute best way to protect ourselves from contracting influenza is to get the flu shot. While not 100% effective, it does protect many people from getting the flu, and drastically lowers the chances of those who still contract the virus of becoming severely ill, hospitalized, or dying from infection.
Some fast facts to know about the flu vaccine:
- It takes up to two weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to build the antibodies it needs to be effective, so you will still be susceptible to the virus while your body acclimates. So get your flu vaccine ASAP!
- In the Pacific Northwest, we are already seeing flu cases. However, contractions of the virus tend to ramp up starting in November/December and can often last until springtime.
- Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot (with very few exceptions.) It is especially important for children, elderly people, pregnant women and anyone with a chronic medical condition to get vaccinated, as they are more vulnerable to the virus.
- People with egg allergies can still get the flu shot! Ask your primary care doctor if you have any questions about this.
- You can't get the flu from the flu vaccine. The injected vaccine contains an inactivated virus, which means that there is no live virus present and it can't transmit infection. Some people may have mild side effects like soreness at the site, mild body aches or headache. These are typically signs that your body is building up immunity to influenza and the shot is working as expected.
- The nasal spray ("flu mist") is a last resort this year. This method is better than nothing, but it hasn't performed well in years past. We recommend the injected vaccine as the best method of protection against the flu.
I got my flu shot today and am so grateful that I have a way to help keep myself healthy this winter.
Every year, I care for healthy children and adolescents who are later hospitalized with severe flu infections, and having seen patients die from influenza, I know it's the best way I have to protect myself and my loved ones. If you haven't gotten yours yet - get it on the books ASAP.
Learn more about how influenza impacts Washington state.
Do you still have questions about flu vaccines, or whether you should plan to get one this season? With Swedish Express Care on-demand services, you can get answers by visiting an online doctor from your device, calling for a doctor to visit you at home, or stopping by one of our conveniently located clinics.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.