Note: This column was cut off in today's paper. Below is the column in it's entirety.
It’s beginning to look a lot like flu season again, and if you’re wondering whether you need a flu shot, we’ve got three words for you: Just do it.
A flu virus typically infects one’s respiratory tract, triggering symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, fever and muscle aches. If that doesn’t sound unpleasant enough, complications of the flu can include ear and sinus infections; pneumonia; inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues; and organ failure.
If you want to boost your chances of avoiding all that, get your flu shot -- ideally, by the end of October, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the six influenza seasons from 2010-11 through 2015-16, influenza vaccinations prevented an estimated 1.6 million to 6.7 million illnesses, 790,000 to 3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 39,000 to 87,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 to 10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths each season, according to the CDC.
But it’s not just about you.
Think of everyone who cannot get vaccinated -- children younger than 6 months, people with compromised immune systems, those with allergies to the vaccine. A virus that your body could tolerate might be life-threatening for them. Why should they live under the constant threat of infection because some of us choose not to vaccinate?
Herd immunity is important. We can protect those who are most vulnerable in our community by vaccinating ourselves, reducing the chance that they’ll come into contact with the virus.
To be sure, it’s possible to still get the flu after receiving a flu shot. Perhaps you’re exposed to the virus before getting your shot, which takes on average two weeks to become effective. Or maybe you’re exposed to a virus that’s not included in this year’s shot, which anticipates the flu viruses that are most likely to circulate during a given season.
But if the discomfort of a few minutes in getting your flu shot could prevent serious illness this year, or reduce the severity of illness, why wouldn’t you go for it?
The vaccine is not perfect, but it’s the best way to protect against the flu -- for yourself and for others.
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