Flu, Flu, Go Away
Haven’t got your flu shot? It’s not too late…
By Tiffany Wilson
If you weren’t among the millions of Americans in a rush to get a flu vaccine this year, you’ve probably never had the flu. Once you do experience the miserable sickness, you’ll never miss a shot again, said Mobeen H. Rathore, M.D., a UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville professor, associate chair of pediatrics and chief of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology.
Rathore still cringes when he recalls his own bout of the flu in 1990. “It really knocked me out for about five days,” he said, noting he was late in getting his flu shot that year. “I have never missed an influenza vaccine since then. It really can make even healthy children and healthy adults very sick and can put you out of commission for days.”
Much more powerful than the common cold that people often confuse it with, the flu is a very serious infection that causes thousands of deaths every year. It can be prevented with a simple annual vaccine, taken in the form of a shot or an intranasal spray. There is even a new vaccine designed for individuals with egg allergies who cannot take the traditional vaccine. “We are very lucky that in 2013 that we have several options for vaccines,” Rathore said. “They are the safest, most effective way that you can prevent getting influenza and all the complications and hospitalizations and death that come with the flu.”
Rathore said there are a number of misconceptions related to the flu vaccine. Many believe they should either wait to get the shot or get a second shot later on to ensure that the immunization lasts the entire flu season, but that’s a myth, he said. “Get it as soon as it becomes available in your doctor’s office, and it will protect you through the whole season. You do not need to get a second shot later in the season,” he said.
Another myth is that the shot can cause the flu. “The vaccine that you get has influenza that is basically dead. It cannot give you the infection,” Rathore said. “You can get some lowgrade fever, you may get some soreness of the arm, a little bit of redness around there, but that’s not influenza. If you’ve had influenza, you’ll know the difference.” The flu shot is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. Children under 9 should get two shots the first year they receive a flu vaccination, and then they will only need one per-year after that first year. The vaccinations are particularly important for health care employees to protect patients from catching influenza.
Patients: To find a provider offering the influenza vaccine near you in Jacksonville, visit primarycare.ufhealthjax.org. In Gainesville, visit ufhealth.org/providers.
Employees: Free flu shots are available for all UF Health Shands employees and volunteers, and for UF College of Medicine credentialed, direct-care faculty and staff. UF Health Shands employees must get the shot or complete an online declination form by Dec. 31. For more information, visit Occupational Health Services or call 352-265-0250. The UF Student Health Care Center held its last employee flu shot drive in early November.