When most of us think of coming down with influenza – the flu – we picture being miserable and confined to bed for a few days then getting better. But for a lot of people, including many in Greene County, that is not the worst-case scenario.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 500,000 people across the United States were hospitalized after contracting the flu during the 2018-19 season, and more than 50,000 died.
And those most at risk for flu-related complications that could lead to such extreme and even fatal results are also the ones who can least protect themselves: the very young, the very old, and people with immune systems already compromised by other conditions. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to get a flu shot.
As Cicely Babb reported recently, the CDC recommends people get a flu shot by the end of October – with flu season typically peaking in December – but you can get one now, and that wouldn’t be too early. In fact, the 2019-20 season has already claimed victims, including a 4-year-old California child whose death in September was classified as flu-related.
And that child’s death fits the unfortunate mold of those for whom the flu can be a deadly illness. As Babb reported, children younger than 5 years old, people older than 65, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions are considered at high risk for serious complications from the flu. Those complications can include bacterial pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, and worsening of previously existing medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes or cancer.
And, as Babb reported, the flu is a highly contagious illness that people can spread before they even know they’re sick. So even though the flu vaccine isn’t guaranteed to prevent a person from becoming ill – because there are so many, mutating strains of flu and the formulation each year is based on the most prevalent – health officials say it is the best defense against the flu and will at least lessen symptoms.
So the flu shot is definitely worth getting. Besides, you might consider yourself strong and healthy enough to fend off the flu, but is everyone around you – your loved ones, your friends – as able to withstand illness? And are you willing to take that chance?