It's the gift that keeps on giving, from early fall, through the holiday season and into late spring. It's seasonal flu, caused by a virus that can fly through the air, hitch a ride on a handshake, hug or kiss, and is extremely good at infecting people and making them sick.
"Influenza is a contact virus," said Dr. Katharine Garnier, a family physician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "It can spread by person-to-person contact or it can land on a surface, such as a doorknob, handrail or elevator button, only to be picked up by the next unsuspecting person to come along."
The best way to avoid the flu this year is to get the widely available flu vaccination from your family physician, pharmacy or one of the many flu vaccine clinics sponsored by local health departments. Still, some people routinely avoid this annual immunization.
For those who are looking for a reason not to get inoculated, Dr. Garnier -- with tongue firmly planted in cheek -- has prepared the following:
"Top 10 (Unwise) Reasons Not to get a Flu Shot This Year.
1. I'm feeling incredibly lucky this year.
2. The vaccine is inexpensive so it probably doesn't work.
3. I'm not afraid of body aches…or headaches…or sore throats…or dangerously high fevers…and I never get sick!
4. I like the idea of having a real reason to call out sick from work.
5. That cute little paper mask over my nose and mouth is a trendy fashion statement.
6. Getting really, really sick is a great way to lose a few pounds without dieting.
7. I'm not planning to leave my house, or let anyone in, for the next six months anyway.
8. I'm anxious to find out if my insurance company really will cover a hospital stay.
9. I went to the county fair and didn't get swine flu, so I must have a natural immunity.
10. Getting sick with the flu will give me a reason to visit relatives I don't really like so that I can share the virus with them!"
Dr. Garnier would also like to dispel certain popular myths about the flu. "Many people think you can get the flu from a flu shot, but you can't; most of the vaccines are made from inactivated (dead) viruses," she said. "Many people also believe that the flu is just a minor illness. It isn't. Each year, the flu causes between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. Young children, the elderly and those with other health conditions are particularly vulnerable. So, getting a flu shot not only protects you, it also keeps you from spreading the virus to someone who could suffer serious health issues, or die, from the flu.
"But seriously, who should get the flu shot? Everyone over the age of 6 months old….do you fit in that category?"
Materials provided by University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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