Influenza Is No Joke

The flu shot, along with hand washing, is the best way to protect ourselves

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The 2018–2019 flu season has begun. Every week, the CDC reports out flu activity across the country, and flu activity has been on the rise. Most tragically, there have been (as of December 15) 7 pediatric deaths:

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As someone who has lost a child, I know how horrible that is, and while it is true that a flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee that we or our children won’t get the flu, it is still very strongly suggested to get a flu vaccine for all those who are eligible, and according to a study published in 2017, the flu vaccine can help save children’s lives:

A new CDC study published today in Pediatrics is the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza. The study, which looked at data from four flu seasons between 2010 and 2014, found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half (51 percent) among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds (65 percent) among healthy children. The study findings underscore the importance of the recommendation by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.

According to the CDC, these are the groups of people who are at highest risk for complications from the flu:

People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications

People who have medical conditions including:

  • Asthma
  • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy [seizure disorders], stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury)
  • Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
  • Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
  • Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
  • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
  • People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
  • People with extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or more) Calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI

I have seen up close the potentially devastating effects of the flu. As a critical care specialist, I have seen many patients who have been admitted to the ICU with life-threatening illness due to influenza. This is especially true for those with chronic lung or other chronic diseases. In these patients, the flu can be deadly, and I have seen it kill — yes, kill — people first hand.

I know that vaccines can cause complications, and I must admit that I get scared of the complications every year I — along with my family — get the flu vaccine. At the same time, I know that the flu is no joke. It can cause serious illness and can be fatal. And so, for the sake of your health and the health of your families, please get your flu vaccine. It is that important.

The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or the organizations with which I am affiliated.

NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist | Physician Leader | Author and Blogger | His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

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