To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, you should:
• Get a flu shot
• Stay home when you are sick and limit your contact with others
• Cover your coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or a disposable tissue
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- California Department of Public Health
I like hanging out with The Lincoln News Messenger staff. That’s good since we spend about 40 hours a week together.
But when someone in my approximately 1,400-square-foot office has flu-like symptoms, I stay at least 20 feet away from them.
And I quickly wash my hands if they hand me mail or a document.
Because I don’t like catching the flu.
For that simple reason, when flu season starts each year, I make sure to get my flu shot. It’s like giving myself a present that keeps me flu-free for the season. Getting my shot gives me immediate peace of mind.
And I’m rewarded with 10- or 20-percent-off merchandise coupons, depending on which drug store pharmacy or grocery store pharmacy I choose. Store managers agree that flu shots are desirable as they promote them heavily with the coupons and poster boards advertising the shots.
And yet I sometimes get into disagreements with friends who tell me that the shots have made them sicker.
Only 59 percent of Americans get a flu vaccine every year or plan to get one this year, according to a July online survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CVS Pharmacy.
But according to the California Department of Public Health and Sutter Medical Foundation, the flu shot is an easy and efficient way to prevent getting sick and taking off work or worse.
The flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and, sometimes, tens of thousands of deaths in the United States, according to California Department of Public Health director and state public health officer Dr. Karen Smith.
The state’s public health department recommends an annual flu shot for everyone 6 months old and older, including pregnant women, to fight the current strains circulating throughout the country.
While California’s flu season usually begins to increase in late November or December, Smith from the California Department of Public Health reported that an elderly San Diego County resident has already died due to flu-related complications.
I wish that more of my friends and more area residents would get their flu shots.
“Getting a flu shot is the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from catching the flu,” said Amy Lanctot, CVS senior manager of public relations. “It’s important to get the flu shot every year because the immunity provided by the vaccine declines over time. It takes up to two weeks for your immunity to build up after getting a flu shot, so the CDC recommends you get vaccinated as soon as flu vaccines become available, preferably by October.”
Lanctot also addressed my friends’ fears.
“A common misconception is that you can get the flu from getting a flu shot. The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so people cannot get the flu from a flu shot,” Lanctot said. “Minor side effects including soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given, a low grade fever, and/or aches may occur. These side effects begin soon after the shot and usually last one to two days. Almost all people who receive the influenza vaccine have no serious problems as a result of receiving it.”
To me, that’s a minor price to pay for being flu-free while some of my friends and acquaintances will not be able to get out of bed.
Even better, the flu vaccine is available at no cost through most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, according to Lanctot.
This year, thanks to my Blue Shield plan, my shot was free.
That just makes it so much easier to avoid the flu this season.