Tuesday, October 9, 2012

7 myths about the flu

Ok, I hardly ever get sick.  I usually go for years without getting so much as a cold.  But last year I caught the flu twice ... and it was brutal ... brutal isSeriously, I'm fairly sure I had the swine flu or something.  Both times it lasted longer than three weeks, and once I had to take two days off work.  

Back then I swore I would get a flu shot this season.

I shortened most of the "Truth" sections below but you can click the link at the end if you want to read the rest.

Myth #1: You can get the flu or other complications from the flu shot.

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.

Myth #2: After December, it's too late to get the vaccine.

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.

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.

Myth #4: Eating pork and pork products will cause H1N1 (swine) flu.

Truth: I deleted the whole answer to this one.  If you're stupid enough to believe this, get off my blog.

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 the flu already this 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.(This made me wonder if both strains are covered by the same shot.  So off I went to do some research ... see, because I am helpful and I care.  So I found this at the CDC's Flu FAQ webpage.)

What does the seasonal influenza vaccine protect against?

Each year, the seasonal influenza vaccine contains three influenza viruses — one influenza A (H3N2) virus, one seasonal influenza A (H1N1) virus, and one influenza B virus.
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.  50%? K, didn't know that.

Myth #7: Avoiding sick people will prevent the flu.

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.

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