You may have missed it among all the festivities surrounding the
but we've got ourselves a flu epidemic. Late last month, as
many of us were preparing to ring in 2015, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that this year's flu season
has crossed the threshold into epidemic territory.
As of December 31, 15 children in the United States had died
from the flu, and the number of states reporting high rates of the
flu nearly doubled in the last week of the year from 13 to 22.
However, it's important to maintain perspective and understand that
this is pretty typical. The United States often experiences a flu
epidemic. According to Erin Burns, a health communications
specialist with the Influenza Division at the CDC, "It is a bit
early to make any kind of characterization about pediatric deaths
this season, but from looking at the curve going back to 2011
to 2012, it doesn't seem like anything unusual is happening."
Nevertheless, as flu season kicks into high gear, now is as good
a time as any to talk about flu prevention--mainly, the flu shot.
There's been a lot of talk about how
this year's flu shot is not a good match for the strain of the
virus that seems to be affecting the most people. However,
experts assert that because there are many strains of the flu
virus, getting vaccinated remains a good idea and "that even if the
shot doesn't match up exactly with all strains of the virus, it may
lessen the symptoms and duration of illness."
In the fast majority of cases, getting the flu shot is a good
CDC recommends the flu shot for anyone 6 months of age and older
with rare exception. You should talk to your doctor if you have
any concerns about receiving the flu shot.
But…I have a confession to make. I didn't get the flu shot this
year. I didn't get the flu shot last year. I've actually never
gotten the flu shot. And I've never gotten the flu. My mother is 74
years old. No flu shot for her and rarely does she even get the
common cold. I like to chalk it up to genetics. I have a large
family. We top out at 40 with just my sisters and our respective
families. I can count on one hand the official cases of flu in our
family across the past three decades of my life.
Now, before you start arguing that ifI ever got the flu, I'd
change my tune and start advocating for the flu shot. You'd be
wrong. My tune has never changed. As a health communicator, I
strongly advocate for people getting the flu shot. I think it's a
smart thing to do. I'm all for
herd immunity. I'm also pro-vaccination. Getting the flu shot
is just not something that I choose to do for myself. I
wash my hands, stay home when I'm sick, and avoid shaking hands
during the peak of cold and flu season. You have your own choice to
make. Make it wisely by doing your research, talking to your
doctor, and deciding if it's the right decision for your
Here's to good health and flu-free months for all of