Vaccine remains the best defense against flu

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — While many of us may be focused on other autumn activities – Halloween comes to mind or getting a start on raking those leaves – the season also heralds the arrival of what could be a challenge for many of us. And that’s the possibility of contracting a case of the flu.

The typical flu season is October through March, although anyone can contract the flu at any time during the year. February is usually the worst month for flu.

 While for some, suffering from a bout of the flu may not have any potentially perilous repercussions, it can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the flu usually kills about 24,000 Americans each year. The disease poses the greatest risk to people over age 65, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions such as asthma or heart disease, according to the CDC, but it can be fatal to even the healthy and young. About 100 children die each year from the flu, the CDC reports.

There is a key step that people can take to reduce the risks: get a flu vaccination. The CDC, as well as local health officials, urge people over the age of six months to have a yearly flu vaccination, and in the coming weeks is the most opportune time. Dr. Michael Kilkenny, medical director at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, explained to The Herald-Dispatch that immunity gained from the vaccine lasts about a year, but it is strongest within the first six months after the vaccination is received. For those who get the vaccination soon, that means it has the greatest effectiveness when the risks of exposure are the highest.

Contrary to common belief, people cannot get the flu from the injected flu vaccine because it does not contain live virus, although there can be some mild side effects that aren’t actually the flu, health officials say. But they also acknowledge that the vaccination doesn’t work in every case. Kilkenny said the flu vaccine has a 30 percent to 40 percent failure rate. “There are people who get the flu shot that get the flu, but it’s milder,” he said. “There will also be people that the flu shot just simply fails them.”

That, of course, can be disappointing to those for whom the vaccine doesn’t work. But, as Kilkenny points out, the vaccine remains the best defense against catching the disease.

The health department as well as local hospitals are sponsoring flu clinics throughout the fall, and many of those offer free vaccinations. Your doctor and your pharmacy also typically provide the vaccinations. So if you want to increase the odds of avoiding the flu this year, your best bet is to get a vaccination.

 See more from The Herald-Dispatch. 

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