It’s time to get your flu shot! You hear that message from your physician. You see the signs at your pharmacy. In recent years that message was targeted to specific groups: children, people with chronic illnesses, anyone over age 65, and all individuals working in healthcare or with children.
This year the message is being expanded to encourage, even urge, flu vaccinations for all people 6 months of age and older. One reason is simply to reduce the number of people who suffer from an influenza outbreak or to minimize the severity for those inflicted. Another reason is to limit the economic impact of this highly contagious disease.
In the current economic climate, more and more people are working part time or per diem, meaning they really cannot afford to miss a day of work. If they or their children are sick, it means lost wages. Many local businesses are operating with fewer and fewer employees so losing just one or two employees for a week can negatively impact both service quality and profits.
We know that people often continue to work or go to school or church when they have the flu, risking the spread of the disease to dozens of others every day. By urging everyone to get vaccinated, we can seriously limit the infection rate. Vaccinations are available at dozens of locations. Most physicians provide them, as do most pharmacies. If your company offers the vaccine, please take it.
Oak Valley Hospital’s three community health clinics in Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon provide flu shots and offer evening and weekend hours. Considering the benefit, the cost of this inoculation is relatively inexpensive.
Influenza can occur at any time, but most cases occur between October and May so September is an excellent time to get vaccinated. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. The medication is effective for about a year.
We have all heard the arguments by those who decline to protect themselves and others. They range from “I took it once and then got the worse case of flu ever!” to “I’m healthy, exercise and eat right so I’m not at risk.” The facts simply do not support those arguments. If you catch the flu after a shot, you were probably already infected. It is great to exercise and eat right to stay healthy. However, that will not prevent you from catching the flu because it is a highly contagious disease that is spread through cough, sneeze or talk by someone with the virus who may not even appear ill.
We never know if this year’s flu season will be mild or wild. With so many things in life beyond our control, this is one instance in which we do have control. Please get your flu shot this month and strongly urge everyone you know to do likewise. It will make for a healthier community for all of us.
John Friel is the Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital. Look for the Health Watch column the third Wednesday of each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.