It’s not too late to get a flu shot

Protect children and the elderly from flu complications

Dr. Carmen Burrell

This year’s flu season is proving to be an especially bad one. Think again if you’re under the impression that it’s inconvenient, unnecessary, or expensive to get a flu shot. The vaccine may not always prevent infection from every strain of the flu, but contrary to flu myths, the flu shot does not make you sick. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot to protect themselves and their community from the disease. WVU Urgent Care Medical Director Carmen Burrell, DO, discusses some of the reasons why you should get your flu shot if you’re not already vaccinated.

Why do I need to get a flu shot?
If you haven’t received a vaccination, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot now – even if you’ve already had the flu. Seasonal influenza is caused by one of several strains of influenza virus (type A or B) that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu season can start as early as October and peak anywhere from late December to early April. By getting a flu shot, you’re helping to protect yourself and people who are at high risk for flu complications, including hospitalization and death.

How does the flu shot work?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tries to figure out which flu strains will be the most prevalent and works with vaccine manufacturers to make the specific vaccine that will fight the predicted strains for the year. Flu vaccines typically offer protection against three or four viruses. There are many different flu viruses, and they are always changing, so the flu vaccine is not able to offer complete protection from all types of flu. But it’s still better to get vaccinated than remain at risk for all forms of the flu.

Who is at high risk for flu complications?
Most of us recover from the flu in a week or two. However, some people have a greater risk of hospitalization and death from the flu. Since 2010, the CDC estimates that the flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year. Young children, adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions are at high risk of serious flu complications. Do yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighbors a favor by taking the time to get a flu shot.

What else can I do to prevent the flu?

  • Handwashing is a simple and effective way to help prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy – if it’s done properly. Scrub your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice if you need a timer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth since openings in the mucous membrane allow germs into the body. Use hand sanitizer frequently if washing your hands is not available to you.
  • Clean off phones, computers, and doorknobs using alcohol rubs or disinfecting wipes.
  • Carry a supply of ink pens with you, so you don’t need to use someone else’s at a restaurant, bank, or office.
  • If you get the flu, stay isolated from others at home if possible. Rest and hydrate. Try to boost your immune system with a healthy diet. Talk with your doctor about the best over-the-counter treatment for you. If your symptoms persist or worsen, see your doctor to be evaluated for risk of another infection or complication.

Need a flu shot? Call 855-WVU-CARE to make an appointment with a primary care provider or visit a WVU Urgent Care location in Morgantown or Fairmont.