According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 200,000 people are hospitalized annually because of flu-related complications, and approximately 36,000 people die from flu-related causes each year. Protect yourself with these facts.
Truth: That’s about as likely as hitting double zero on a roulette wheel 14 times in a row. If you do get sick after a flu shot, it’s likely that you were exposed to someone with the flu virus or another illness shortly before you got the shot. Flu shots only contain dead viruses (only the nasal flu mist contains an active — but weakened — virus). So unless you know how to resurrect the dead (if so, we need you at another part of the clinic), it is highly improbable that you would catch the flu from the shot.
While it’s true that the shot increases inflammation in your body, it’s minor compared with what your body suffers if you get the flu. As for the pain? Tiny, compared with the advantage of being about 25% less likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia.
Truth: The viruses causing the flu have not taken Calendar Reading 101, and it’s likely they’ll extend themselves into the New Year. You can get a flu shot before or during flu season; September is ideal. If for some reason you don’t get one until December or later, you’ll be protected going forward. But it won’t stop a flu bug that’s already enjoying your hospitality.
Myth #3: Only those at high risk should get the flu vaccine.
Truth: Everyone should get it. Two reasons: One, immunization is vacation protection: It helps ensure that you won’t have to spend all your PTO on flu days. Two, if you protect yourself from the flu, you’re also protecting others by not spreading it.
Some people, however, should not be vaccinated — you are allergic to eggs (you break out, or worse, can’t breathe at their sight), have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, or have had a severe reaction to a previous flu shot. Infants under 6 months old should also not get this vaccine.
Truth: H1N1 flu did originate in pigs but has moved to humans. Now the virus moves from person to person rather than from pig to person. Eating cooked pork and pork products cannot give you swine flu.
Myth #5: The seasonal flu vaccine protects against H1N1, or vice versa.
Truth: Oh, we wish it did… or that we had a vaccine that was good for both. We could all have a few extra days off (vacation, not sick days). Alas, swine flu is a different strain this year than the seasonal flu, so you need to get the seasonal flu vaccine in September (ideally) and the vaccine for H1N1 when it becomes available, if it is proved safe and efficacious enough (studies are just under way now).
Myth #6: Having flu already last season, protects you from getting it again.
Truth: The flu bugs have a lot of relatives: There are usually two types of flu during flu season, influenza A (including H1N1) and influenza B. It is possible to be infected by both during the same season. Even if you’ve already had the flu, you should get the vaccine before you come down with another strain. Don’t worry, we’re telling you the truth — no vaccine companies contributed to this article.
Another compelling reason to get vaccinated: If you get a flu shot for 10 years in a row, you are about 50% less likely to die in those 10 years from any cause, compared with those who do not get flu shots. That’s because many heart attacks and strokes are triggered by plaque rupture from acute inflammation; and you decrease that inflammation with flu shots.
Truth: Germs are airborne and can be found on all surfaces, so even if you spend flu season avoiding sick people, you can still catch the flu. No baseball mitt needed.