An Especially Bad Flu Season Highlights the Need for Widespread Vaccination

The 2017-2018 flu season is shaping up to be an especially bad one, with hospitals across the country managing a radical uptick in flu cases. The CDC estimates that around nine percent of the deaths in the first week of 2018 may be attributed to influenza, which can be especially harsh on older adults and immunocompromised people.

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s not too late — and if you aren’t in the habit of getting them, now is a good time to start.

Influenza is a particularly adaptable virus that’s constantly mutating, and that’s precisely why people need a flu shot every year. It’s not just a booster: The formulation is actually tweaked to reflect the strain or strains that are most likely to appear during a given flu season.

Predicting probable flu strains is a tricky — and not always exact — science; if you’ve ever received a flu shot and still gotten sick, that may be why. It’s also possible that you were infected during the roughly two-week period between vaccination and immunity development.

But if you’re among the ranks of those who think flu shots don’t work because of that one time you got sick, you might want to rethink your stance.

While not 100 percent effective, a flu shot can offer significant protection that can help you stay healthy and avoid the hospital. Moreover, it will protect the people around you who can’t get vaccinated, like very young children or people with fragile immune systems. If you’re planning to visit anyone with a new baby, you should definitely get a flu shot. After all, a shot now offers better protection than no shot at all.

So, why is this year’s flu so bad? The strain, known as H3N2, appears to be hitting young baby boomers and young children with particular vigor, and it’s known for being extremely virulent.

Like all flu strains, it’s a very contagious respiratory infection that can move like wildfire through a vulnerable population, with most patients hospitalized because they experience difficulty breathing. People may also feel feverish or develop muscle aches, and they can suffer from a runny nose, fatigue, nausea and a cough.

If you’re not sure whether you or family member should go to the hospital, some warning signs include:

  • Shortness of breath — especially after relatively minor activity, like going upstairs
  • High fever
  • Disinterest in eating and drinking — and in children, active refusal of beverages
  • An altered level of consciousness, including confusion or combativeness
  • General improvement followed by a very rapid decline, which can indicate the presence of an infection

Many hospitals and clinics offer flu hotlines. You can call in to talk through symptoms with a triage nurse to determine if you should come in. And don’t be shy about dialing: They’d much rather talk to you and determine that you’re best off at home than see an advanced infection in the emergency room.

This year’s flu season highlights another issue: In nations where people have robust access to preventative health care, it’s much easier to reduce the incidence of influenza infection. Flu vaccines are often free as part of even basic insurance coverage, with patients encouraged to get them early in the season. Preventative care also helps people stay healthier and stronger, so they’re better able to fight infection. Attacks on the safety net can threaten everyone’s welfare.

Photo Credit: KOMUnews/Flickr

43 comments

Ann B
Ann B6 months ago

after 3 months you can get the 2nd shot

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John B
John B6 months ago

Thanks Ms. Smith for sharing the info.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y6 months ago

Thank you

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shawn arscott
Darlene Buckingham6 months ago

This year's flu vaccine is only 10% effective. There is a need for widespread education on alternative ways to prevent the flu by developing a strong immune system. The flu vaccine is a bust!

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Ellie M
Ellie M6 months ago

my family always gets all of their vaccines

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Winn A
Winn Adams6 months ago

I get a flu shot every year in September.

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Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R6 months ago

Thanks for posting...for all the good it does when people won't listen to scientific facts.

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Virginia Bell
Virginia B6 months ago

Vaccines contain a lot of other ingredients which the drug companies mix together with the active ingredient, for their own reasons, and which we are forced to take into our bloodstream if we want to be vaccinated. How safe is this cocktail of ingredients?

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Linda D
Linda D6 months ago

Did S.E. Smith get paid to write this? Another article to promote a useless vaccine (and more money for BigPharma). All you have to do is build up your immune system, nature (or God for some) created the perfect body, you just have to feed it with nutritious food. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and stop clogging up your system with animal products, processed junk and chemicals from all sources.

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