With August (and the triple-digit heat index) over, flu season may be the last thing on your mind. Stories of flu outbreaks may not fill the newspapers until December or January, but experts advise that the best time to get your flu shot is now. Why? Following are six reasons you should not delay:
1. FLU OUTBREAKS CAN OCCUR AS EARLY AS OCTOBER
In general, the flu season peaks in January, but an outbreak can occur any time the flu virus is circulating. Also, consider the fact that it takes two weeks for your body to create antibodies, meaning a flu vaccination will not be effective until 14 days after you receive it.
2. FLU SEASONS ARE UNPREDICTABLE
Not only does the length of flu season vary from year to year, but it can even alter between different parts of the country. While some flu seasons have been uneventful, others have been more severe. With so many unknowns, getting a shot early just makes sense.
3. DO IT FOR THOSE YOU LOVE
Most healthy Americans are able to recover from the flu after two weeks of misery. Others are more susceptible to complications that accompany the virus—complications that can cause hospitalization and death. These include pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus infections. Do any of your friends and relatives fall into these categories? If so, they are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu.
- Those younger than five
- Pregnant women
- Those 65 and older
- Residents of a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Those with chronic health problems such as asthma and congestive heart failure
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
You don’t want to be the person who accidently spreads the disease to someone who is vulnerable, do you?
4. THE FLU IS A SERIOUS ILLNESS
Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza. Worldwide, the flu causes between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths each year. In industrialized countries, most flu deaths occur in those 65 and older.
5. DON’T MISS A PAYCHECK
The old cliché is “time is money,” and the flu brings that statement into full focus. Missed workdays can make your wallet thinner and impact the whole economy. Studies indicate that the U.S. economic burden of the flu cashes in around $87 billion. If that number isn’t mind-boggling enough for you, consider the $16 billion in lost wages, 3.1 million hospitalization days and 31.4 million outpatient visits.
Of course, if you have symptoms of the flu, you shouldn’t go to work. Doing so could only spread the virus (and not score any brownie points with your coworkers). The best defense is a good offense: Get the flu vaccine ASAP.
6. HAVE PEACE OF MIND DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other seasonal winter celebrations are a great time for being with family . . . and spreading germs. It’s not unusual for flu epidemics to start in November or December. During the holidays, there are more handshakes, hugs and kisses: the perfect opportunity to spread germs and possibly the flu. Be prepared.
The flu vaccine remains the best way to avoid influenza and its possible complications. Because flu season is so unpredictable, the sooner you receive the flu shot, the better. For the latest information and updates on the 2015 – 2016 flu season, visit the comprehensive influenza page at the Centers for Disease Control.