One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Unlike some of my colleagues, I am not one to rally the troops and go on the offensive about the benefits of immunizations. I prefer to think I fall somewhere in the middle. While I fully support the benefits of immunizations, I also support a person’s right to choose. Consequently, I rarely get on a soap box and pontificate on the topic. However, given this year’s flu season to date, I find I must abandon my usual centrist stance on the topic. Though admittedly anecdotal, I’m hoping what I’m about to relate will make the reader capable of making a more informed decision on the issue.

While the politicians in Washington spent a good part of Fall 2014 scaring the country about an ebola outbreak that never happened, the influenza virus has decided to take advantage of the distraction and do some real damage. I have seen more influenza cases and admitted more patient’s for the flu than possibly in my last ten years of practicing medicine. All of these patients have one thing in common:

None of them had a flu shot.

I’ll say that again, none of them had a flu shot. I know this because I ask my patients (or their respective parent) and it’s one of those questions that people have little reason to lie about. Now, while most adults who contract the flu will be fine, with or without being prescribe an anti-viral, the bigger concern comes with infants, children, elderly, and the immunocompromised. These patients are at an increased risk of complications and death from the flu. As already stated, I have admitted more patient’s for influenza this year than the past ten. These patients, particularly infants and elderly, are presenting to us extremely sick. Dehydration is common. Co-existing pneumonia’s are not unusual. These populations are unable to handle the flu well and usually contract it from an adult who can.

Is the flu vaccine a guarantee? No, there are none. IT IS our best defense against getting the flu and the complications that can arise from it. If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster. Given that we are well into the flu season, if you have already been exposed to the flu virus before getting the vaccine, you may still get the flu. However, the vaccine will NOT make the illness worse.

As I said, I’m not going to go on an exhaustive campaign and demand everyone get the flu shot. This is still America, you can still make choices. All I ask is that you seriously consider the information I have presented here and consider the health of not only yourself but of those around you. I hope that you will see the benefit and protection from getting the flu vaccine.

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