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The Flu and You, Part 1: Why Should (Almost) Everyone Get a Flu Shot Every Year? By Our September Student Pharmacist, Rich Carter.

Well, that time is now upon us again.

What’s that Rich? Are you talking about Buckeye football season? Or the major league baseball race to the playoffs?

No, I am talking about flu (shot) season! It is now time to start thinking about flu shots. Scratch that–it is now time to come in and get your flu shot or schedule an appointment if that would make your life easier. The flu shots are here–hot off the press!

There is a fair amount of talk out in the community regarding different kinds of shots and what type of shot may or may not be the best for you. We are here to help you with those decisions and make your flu shot experience as seamless and painless (well almost) as possible. Over the next couple of weeks, you and I are going to go on a short journey. We are going to cover some frequently asked questions and try to dispel some myths and misinformation regarding the flu shot. I will try to ‘arm’ you with the most up-to-date and proper information so that you can make informed decisions about your healthcare. As always, if you have any questions regarding any immunizations, don’t hesitate to call and ask us. We are here to help you!

Ok, without further adieu…

Why should I get a flu shot?

I am glad you asked that question! The flu, or Influenza, is a serious disease. The flu can lead to hospitalization and occasionally even death. Sometimes, people who are normally very healthy can get the flu and become very sick. It is estimated that up to 49,000 people suffered from a flu-related death between 1971 and 2007. Besides being potentially deadly, the flu is no picnic!

Flu symptoms can include:

  • Fever/chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Some people may become sicker than others, but, typically, the people (or family members of these individuals) who must be the most careful are:

  • Young children
  • Individuals over 65
  • Pregnant Women
  • People with certain health conditions, such as heart, lung, or kidney disease or a weak immune system

If you are in any of these groups or have a loved one in these groups, then both you and this person should get the flu shot. If you are not in any of these groups or don’t know anyone in these groups, then you may need to get outside, meet people, and stop living in a van down by the river. Seriously, though, you should get the flu shot also, both to protect you and those around you.

I got the flu shot last year, so why do I need to get another one this year? I paid attention in biology class and they said that your immune system is capable of ‘remembering’ viruses so that it can defend against them in the future (sometimes years).

I say to you, first of all, great job for paying attention in biology class, because you are absolutely right, your immune system can remember a virus, sometimes for your entire lifetime. The problem is that the flu is always changing. Most of the time all three (or sometimes four) of the flu strains that the shot covers change every year. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) runs complicated studies to determine which flu strains are the most deadly and which are the most likely for you to encounter. Then, the CDC picks three to create a combination vaccine, which will maximize your protection for the year.

That is all for this week. Look for Part 2 next week as we will explore more of the information, myths, and legends of the flu shot. Additionally, if you want more information, all of the info I have given you and much more is available at www.cdc.gov/flu/.

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