The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging the public to get their influenza vaccine shots. To date, only 40 percent of Americans have received their shots. Last year was a wicked influenza season, with a reported 3,000 hospitalizations and 169 deaths. The CDC wants to prevent more unnecessary deaths and to do so, it is suggested to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible because the vaccine supply can become depleted.
The CDC reports the influenza vaccine kept approximately 79,000 people out of the hospital and prevented 6.6 million people from contracting influenza. People most likely to catch influenza are the elderly, young children and those with weak immune systems. These are the groups urged to take steps against this preventable virus. About 20 percent of Americans get the flu every year.
As much as the CDC touts getting the influenza vaccine every year, there are doctors who are not exactly supportive of the efficacy of the vaccine. For one medical doctor, Chauncey Crandall, the benefits of the influenza vaccine is overestimated. In a post he wrote on his personal blog, he explains that the shot itself is a weaker version of the flu virus and the efficacy of it depends on the patient’s ability to produce antibodies. As people age, so does the ability to produce antibodies. Crandall states, “And although this weakened form of the virus is promoted as being safe, side effects can and do occur—including some that can be serious.”
The CDC, however, has released an alternative version of the influenza vaccine, Fluzone HD, specifically aimed at elderly patients. The data, so far received, show a positive response, but the CDC is hesitant to promote it yet and it is advised that seniors go with the influenza vaccine recommended by their doctors.
The CDC does acknowledge the influenza vaccine is not perfect. In fact, the efficacy rate for the 2012-2013 vaccine was about 51 percent.
There are ways to prevent influenza and other illnesses; the first steps include maintaining good hygiene and eating habits.
- Eat healthy. A diet rich with vegetables, fruit, grains and proteins can stave off many illnesses. Eating plenty of greens and taking a daily vitamin will give your body plenty of antioxidants to fight off illness.
- Get enough sleep. Many people don’t get enough sleep and their health ends up suffering as a result. Keep a regular sleep schedule no matter what. Sleep deprivation results in negative consequences like a lowered immunity system. Sleep is a way for the body to regenerate, so sleep is always beneficial. If sleepy during the daytime, find a place for a cat nap.
- Exercise. Even just a brisk walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for the body. Being out in nature and getting fresh air is good for the mind as it is for maintaining bodily health.
- Wash hands frequently. The importance of hand washing can’t be overemphasized. Before and after handling food, before and after using the bathroom, shaking hands, anything you touch, your hands will have a lot of germs. Influenza is spread by droplets from when people sneeze, cough or talk. Wash hands vigorously with antibacterial soap and avoid rubbing your nose, as this is an easy way to get sick. In fact, avoid putting your hands on your face.
- If sick, stay home. Influenza and other illnesses are spread by being close to other people. Do them a favor by staying home and getting yourself well. Chicken soup is good.
Whether getting the influenza vaccine that is being urged by the CDC, or winging the influenza season without it, there are ways to prevent illness.
By Juana Poareo