News and Tribune

January 18, 2013

NASH: The flu is in the news

Local columnist

— Over the last couple of weeks there have been numerous news reports concerning the rash of flu cases around the country. On both the local level and the network nightly news programs, there has been story after story about the outbreak of the flu this year and how it is wreaking havoc with our world and our workforce. The one point about all of these newscasts is the recommendation that everyone get a flu shot.

The only problem is that most of the places that you go to get the flu shot — doctors’ offices, clinics or neighborhood pharmacies — are now jammed packed with people that may be contagious with none other than the Influenza virus. The vaccine, which changes from year to year, takes a couple of weeks to build up the antibodies in the body and for the protection to become fully effective. If you sit around a crowded doctor’s office in the peak point of flu season waiting for a flu vaccine, it may already be too late. They should start the newscast requesting people get a flu shot in fall and not wait until people start dying.

Although it hit a little earlier this year, peak flu season is normally from the end of January to the middle of February. It is not too late to get your flu shot for this year, but I recommend in the future you get it in middle to late fall for maximum effectiveness.

Some people still refuse to get a flu shot each year. Some of these people have legitimate concerns, others are conspiracy theorists who believe that the U.S. Government is trying to poison the citizens. There are also some people who believe some vaccines the government requires or recommends are supplemented with microscopic tracking devices that they use to follow our every move. Why on earth would they need those? They can already see you through your television set and satellites. The most common reply of people when asked why they don’t get a flu shot is its lack of effectiveness. There is always someone who says that they got the flu shot once and they still got the flu. It is true that the flu vaccine is not as effective as people would like. Some studies released suggest that it is effective around 60 percent of the time. There are those who argue that those odds just aren’t worth the trouble. If I was in a casino and got those odds I would leave with more money than I came with.

Every year the Center for Disease Control has to come up with a new vaccine in order to cover the predominate strains of the annual virus. Each year it also tries to come up with a more effective dose. The CDC does admit a 60 percent effective rate is way better than nothing. Also, those who do get the flu after receiving a flu shot have symptoms that are less severe. People that get the flu after the vaccination are less likely to need medical treatment or end up in the hospital or dead.

Mark your calendars next October and plan to get vaccinated for the flu early for the next flu season. There is no excuse for not getting one since they have been available just about everywhere for the last few years. Besides getting one at your regular doctor’s office during a normal checkup, you can also get them from any various health clinics. For the last several years flu shots have also been available at most retail pharmacies since now pharmacist can be certified to administer vaccinations. 

The cost of a flu shot ranges usually between $25 and $35 and should not be a deterrent to getting the vaccination. It is cheaper than a doctor’s appointment or a couple of bottles of Nyquil if you were to become sick. It is also way cheaper than an emergency room visit or a stay in the hospital. Many insurances cover the cost of the flu vaccine with many just needing a small co-pay. Check with your insurance company in order to find out exactly what is covered and for how much it will be.

If you do come down with the flu or any illness you should do your best to avoid people. Stay home from work or school if possible and avoid crowds at all cost. If you must go out you should wear a surgical mask. It may look silly to the people around you, but you are doing it to protect them.

The best way to avoid getting the flu is by washing your hands frequently. It is important that you wash and dry them thoroughly after using the restroom, touching your face, shaking hands with anyone and or after coughing or sneezing. If you use a facial tissue, be sure to throw it away immediately.

According to Indiana health officials, 27 people have died so far this year because of the flu. It is possible that some of these deaths could have been avoided by following just a few easy steps. You can protect yourself from serious illness by getting your flu shot early next fall.


Matthew Nash can be reached at