For the past 19 months, warnings about the risks of the novel coronavirus have dominated the headlines.
And this has been for a good reason. The virus can lead to COVID-19, and this condition is deadly. As of Wednesday, more than 737,000 Americans have died from the disease since the coronavirus pandemic began.
We’re fortunate that vaccines are available to help protect us from becoming infected with the coronavirus and developing symptoms of COVID-19. As more people get the shots, we’re moving closer to achieving herd immunity.
But public health care professionals are reminding everyone not to overlook the other risks to our well-being. With winter approaching, now is the ideal time to get a flu shot.
First of all, the coronavirus vaccination does not safeguard us from the flu. They are different viruses and thus require different vaccines.
“Influenza (flu) is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza can affect people differently. But millions of people get flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year,” according to information on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flu can mean a few days of feeling bad and missing work or it can result in more serious illness. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children. While some people who get a flu vaccine may still get sick, flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness.”
Flu statistics over the past year and a half have surprised authorities.
“A feared ‘twindemic’ — an influenza epidemic wrapped in a [coronavirus] pandemic — never materialized, much to the relief of critical care specialists and their hospitals’ administrators. Instead, flu cases and deaths in the [United States] and worldwide dropped to unprecedented lows, and influenza remained scarce this summer for the second consecutive flu season in the Southern Hemisphere,” an article published Aug. 25 in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported. “Between Oct. 3, 2020, and July 24, 2021, of the 1.3 million specimens tested by clinical laboratories and reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,136 were positive for influenza virus and 748 deaths were coded as influenza, according to CDC data provided to JAMA. In a typical season, 75 to 150 children die of influenza in the [United States], pediatric infectious disease specialist Paul Offit, MD, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, noted in an interview. Last flu season, he said, one child died.”
Despite these numbers, health experts urge people not to take the flu for granted. It can still affect many individuals, and they should take precautions for this seasonal illness.
Consult with your physician about getting the flu vaccine. Many pharmacies offer the shot, so protect yourself by finding a site to get the jab.