People take risks daily, chancing their lives and putting others in jeopardy. Speeding, driving drunk, texting: many common traffic violations raise your risk of accidents and injury – even death.
Dr. Trevor Ripley, a Beaumont primary care doctor, says another needless risk millions take is not getting a flu shot.
What’s ironic is the vast majority of adults perceive the flu vaccine as safe and effective, while flu vaccination coverage for adults is typically below 50 percent each flu season. During the last flu season, only 46.1 percent of Michigan residents were vaccinated against flu, below the national rate of 49.2 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services have released data for the current flu season. This data is for Oct. 1, 2019 to Jan. 11, 2020; national data is estimated:
• 13 million to 18 million U.S. flu illnesses.
• 5.9 million to 8.5 million U.S. flu medical visits.
• 120,000 to 210,000 U.S. flu hospitalizations, with 292 of these in Michigan including 64 children and 228 adults.
• 6,600 to 17,000 total U.S. flu deaths.
• 39 U.S. flu-associated pediatric deaths, including two Michigan children
Wrong information supports needless risk taking
“Social media and the Web offer so much wrong information about the flu shot,” Ripley said. “Some don’t get a flu shot because they’ve experienced minor symptoms. Believe me, those are nothing compared to the head-to-toe misery you’ll be in for days and the responsibility you would bear and the havoc you would create from giving the flu to your family, friends and co-workers. During regular check-ups with my patients, I always emphasize the importance of getting a flu shot.”
By not getting vaccinated, you take an even greater risk of infecting others since you might be able to spread your flu virus from two to five days after exposure – even before you know you are sick. After flu symptoms begin, you remain contagious for another five to seven days. Young children and people with weakened immune systems could be contagious to others for an even longer time.
Ripley has heard this falsehood time after time: It’s better to get the flu than to get vaccinated
“The flu can be a serious disease, especially among young kids, older adults and people with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes,” Ripley said. “But, any flu infection carries a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults.”
He confirms that unless your doctor says you shouldn’t have a flu shot because of a specific allergy, previous severe reaction to it or your immune system is seriously compromised, you need to do your part for public health and get one.
“Young adults generally feel less confident about flu vaccine safety and don’t believe in flu shot effectiveness compared to older adults,” Ripley said. “But, adolescents and young adults are proven to take more needless risks than any other age group. Again, I’m not cool with this. And, neither should anyone else be. Get a flu shot.”
To listen to Beaumont Health’s podcast about the flu, go to soundcloud.com/beaumont-health/the-flu-episode.