Flu season is already here and according to health experts, getting your flu shot this year will be critical. ABC News reports that only half of American adults plan to get the shot. The importance of getting the vaccine right to protect against influenza can be seen in our own backyard as Duke announced a recent $400M grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to make the annual vaccination better.
Right now the risk is low, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 208 flu deaths in North Carolina last season. There are a lot of myths that surround the flu and its vaccine. Many of which start with the effectiveness of the vaccine. As doctors and health care professionals, we know that the vaccine is not perfect, but we also know that it is the best way to protect against influenza and the potentially serious complications that can occur.
The good news? You don’t have to visit your primary care doctor for the flu shot, check your local pharmacy and employer health clinics. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths and get straight to the facts.
MYTH: THE FLU SHOT GIVES YOU THE FLU
Debunked: The flu shot is made up of a dead virus that can’t give you the flu. When it enters your body, it creates antibodies (proteins that fight infection). The antibodies then protect you against the virus’ infection, which lowers your risk of getting the flu.
MYTH: THE FLU SHOT PUTS YOU MORE AT RISK FOR CATCHING OTHER RESPIRATORY VIRUSES
Debunked: This is a common myth, but many studies have been done that show the flu shot has not been proven to raise your risk of catching other respiratory viruses.
MYTH: THE FLU SHOT IS NOT NEEDED IF YOU’RE HEALTHY
Debunked: Even if you are healthy, you can still get the flu. While your risk may be lower than others, you can still easily spread it to those who are more susceptible than you. Healthy people should still get the flu shot to protect themselves and others around them. Even among healthy folks, the flu shot can prevent days lost from work.
MYTH: IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO GET THE FLU SHOT EVERY YEAR
Debunked: The CDC recommends getting a flu shot every year because the flu virus can change and the immune protection provided by the shot decreases over time. The flu shot is reformulated each year to target the most recent flu viruses likely to cause illness. This year the flu shot will expand coverage to certain new strains of H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses that may cause infection.
MYTH: THE FLU ONLY SPREADS AFTER SYMPTOMS APPEAR
Debunked: The flu is contagious about one day before and five to seven days after symptoms appear. More of a reason to get the flu shot! You could feel fine and still be spreading the flu.
MYTH: IT’S TOO LATE TO GET THE FLU SHOT IN THE WINTER
Debunked: As long as the flu is going around, a flu shot is effective and recommended. It’s important to keep in mind that it takes two weeks for the flu shot to start working.
With more than 12,000 people testing positive for the flu in the 2017-2018 season, you should get your flu shot. If you’re a Blue Cross NC member, use the What’s True about the Flu page on our website to find the flu shot provider closest to you.