As the fall season approaches, I think of cooler temperatures and the beautiful fall foliage. Growing up in Pennsylvania, the trees were spectacular in color. As a kid we used to collect the leaves and then place them between two pieces of wax paper. We would then run a warm iron over the wax paper until the two pieces bonded, preserving the leaves inside.
We don’t expect as much color change in the tree leaves of southern Georgia. But every-so-often I will catch a glimpse of a changing tree. It brings back great memories.
Fall reminds us of another season— flu season. I have no fond memories regarding flu season; only that the last time I had the flu I was miserable. Around this time each year, a debate starts to surface about the flu shot: “Should I get one or not?” “Is it safe?” “The last time I had the flu shot I got the flu anyway.” And my personal favorite, “The flu shot gave me the flu.”
Many years ago, the flu vaccine was derived from a live strain of the flu virus, which could have caused some people to get sick. Today, flu shots use a non-living strain, which means the flu inoculation cannot cause flu illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The flu vaccine that comes in a nasal spray form does use a live strain of the virus, but it is weakened. But the CDC also says this vaccine will not make you sick, though mild reactions in certain age groups have been reported.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive the flu vaccine. The CDC also says that children under age 2 and adults over age 65 are in a higher risk category and therefore should definitely receive the flu vaccine. Certain medical conditions also warrant receiving the shot.
The flu virus is constantly evolving and can come in many forms, hence the recommendation for people to receive the vaccination every year. Each year a new version of the serum is released that specifically targets the sub-strains of the virus that experts believe will be the most prevalent for the coming season. There’s a lot of guesswork that goes into the development of a vaccine, and results will vary from person to person. This could be a reason why you may have still gotten sick even though you had the shot.
A couple new vaccines will be on the market this year. One will target four strains of the virus as opposed to the traditional three. There is also a vaccine for those who have a known egg allergy. A high-dose vaccine (four times the amount of antigen as a regular dose) is also available for those older than age 65 with weak immune systems. There is an ongoing study as to the effectiveness of this vaccine that should be completed in 2015, though so far the results are inconclusive.
Your physician will know best and can make sure you receive the right vaccination for your overall health condition. Flu shots are currently available in Bryan County through the health department.
Other things you can do to help lessen your chances of getting the flu include washing your hands. Do it often and keep them away from your face. Hands are great germ carriers and can spread the flu faster than ice cream melts in August. Stay away from sick people too — and stay home if you are sick. Coughing and sneezing passes the virus around quickly.
Stay healthy my friend.
Rich DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. You can e-mail him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.