A flu shot primer for 2010

By • Published: November 10th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Ask yourself this: If there was a disease that killed thousands of people each year, would you get a vaccine to avoid it?

If you answered yes, here is another question: Have you gotten a flu shot this year?

Unless you missed a few thousand headlines about H1N1 last year, you know the flu is deadly… and unpredictable. About 12,000 people have died from H1N1. And although it doesn’t generate a media frenzy, an average of 25,000 people die each year due to complications from seasonal flu.

This doesn’t mean we should all hide in bunkers or swaddle children in plastic wrap. But there are simple precautions to take to help prevent infection.

Chief among these preventive steps is the flu vaccine.

Getting a flu vaccine can drastically reduce your chances of getting sick. How so? Each year, scientists determine what strains of the flu are most likely to cause people to get sick. The vaccine is geared to fight these strains.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu vaccine contains antibodies to fight three strains of influenza, including the H1N1 virus.

Experts advise everyone 6 months of age or older to get vaccinated. It’s particularly important for adults over 65, pregnant women, children under 5 or people who have conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Folks in these groups are more prone to serious complications from the virus.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work its immune-boosting magic, so if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, now is the time.

And don’t forget the other important step you can take to stop flu’s spread: wash your hands. Flu bugs use your hands as their personal transport systems. But a hot, 20-second lather or burst of hand sanitizer should send them to an early retirement.