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Cornelius News

Doctors urge vaccinations as flu season gets under way

ahern_seniorscolumnEveryone has an opinion about flu vaccinations.  On and on it goes until your head is spinning and you don’t know what to believe.

“I’ve never gotten a flu shot and I’ve never gotten the flu.”

“I got a flu shot once and I got the worst case of the flu I’ve ever had.  I’m never getting another one.”

“They don’t work.”

“They always work.” 

“I get a flu shot every year and I’ve never had the flu.”

“Live flu virus nasal spray gives you the flu.”

“Dead flu virus vaccine isn’t any good.”  

I decided to go to the Centers for Disease Control and get some answers.

Can a flu shot give you the flu?

No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: The vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been “inactivated” and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur.

Can the nasal spray flu vaccine give you the flu?

The nasal spray vaccine cannot give you the flu. The viruses contained in the nasal spray flu vaccine are attenuated (i.e., weakened), which means they cannot cause flu illness. These weakened viruses are also cold-adapted, meaning they are designed to only cause mild infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. These viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas of the body where warmer temperatures exist. The nasal spray is well tolerated and the most commonly reported side effects are mild and include runny nose, nasal congestion and cough.

So just what is this nasty thing called the flu that comes around once a year? Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times even lead to death. If you’ve ever had it you know that some of the symptoms can be fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

The recovery period from the flu ranges from a few days to less than two weeks.  However, some people will develop complications which can be life-threatening and result in death.

Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections are examples of complications from flu and the illness can make chronic health problems worse. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease).

Being at the Senior Center every day with a whole bunch of older adults can make all of us vulnerable as well as susceptible to getting the flu so I encourage everyone to take precautions.

We have plenty of soap and water for frequent hand washing and using alcohol based hand rub is recommended as well as staying home if you’re feeling ill. I also have our custodian disinfect all the tables used at the center every day.

The Flu is very contagious.  Once again, according to the CDC, people with flu can spread it to others from up to about six feet. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Go to CDC.gov for an amazing amount of information about the Flu and always check with your doctor or pharmacist as there is a dose that is specifically recommended for older adults.

My recommendation: Be safe, keep others safe, and get your Flu Shot!!