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Importance of the Flu Vaccine

medical professional with test tubes

Influenza (flu) is not something to take lightly. The 2017-18 season was the first to be classified as a high severity across all age groups with an estimated number of 960,000 hospitalizations and 79,000 deaths. Of those estimated deaths, 183 were pediatric. The best way to prevent flu is by getting an annual flu vaccine.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes lungs. Symptoms of the flu are different from a cold. Typically, the flu comes on suddenly, and people who have it often feel some or all of the following symptoms:

  • fever*
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • Fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

*Not everyone with flu will have a fever

The flu is spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people who are infected cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, the flu is spread when a person touches a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose, or even eyes.

If you get the flu, you are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after your illness begins. However, in some cases, healthy adults may infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Anyone, even healthy people, can get the flu, but some people are at a higher risk of developing complications if they get sick. The most vulnerable are people 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and children under the age of 5.

If you do get sick with the flu, antiviral drugs may be a treatment option. Check with your healthcare provider immediately if you are at high risk of serious flu complications, and you have flu-like symptoms.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against those viruses that research shows will be the most common during that flu season. It is not too late to get vaccinated, although it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to develop. These antibodies are what protects against infection. Everyone 6 months of age and older should receive the flu vaccine every season.

At the Gibson Family Health Clinic in Newberry and Manistique Lakes Family Clinic in Curtis, walk-in flu shots are always welcome. Call ahead at the West Mackinac Health Clinic to ensure walk-in availability. For hours information, visit www.hnjh.org. Don’t let the flu get you and get your flu shot.