It’s beginning to look like the holidays are here.
A successful Halloween is in the rearview, Thanksgiving is next week, assorted holiday goodies are showing up on store shelves faster than the elves can carry them – and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning Americans about the dangers of the flu.
Unfortunately, early reports are suggesting that 2022 might be one for the record books where flu is concerned.
According to the CDC, between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, 443 flu-related hospitalizations were reported by the FluSurv-NET hospitalization network that tracks hospitalizations in 13 states. This was the highest number of hospitalizations reported at this time of the season in 10 years.
Those are startling numbers. But there’s good news, too: there’s a safe, swift, and free way to protect yourself and your family before you head home for the holidays: get a flu shot.
The CDC strongly encourages everyone over the age of 6 to get a flu shot for the 2022-2023 flu season and there’s also no time like the present to get a flu shot. Because the vaccine takes approximately two weeks to be effective at fighting off the influenza virus, it’s important to get vaccinated before flu season is in full swing.
Many people remain hesitant to get vaccinated for several reasons, from fear of needles to a belief that the vaccine, itself, can cause sickness. But the truth is that the benefits of getting your flu shot far outweigh the risks. While some people may experience minor side effects, such as soreness at the injection site, they are usually brief and not severe (particularly when compared to the flu itself!)
Consider the following:
- The flu shot is effective: While no vaccine can claim 100% efficacy, the flu shot drastically reduces your risk of getting sick with the virus. And even if you do happen to get the flu after receiving the vaccine, the illness is likely to be much milder than it would have been without it.
- The flu shot cannot give you the flu: It’s a common misconception, but aside from arm soreness after your shot, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. Injectable vaccines are made with an inactive – or dead – virus, so it cannot cause infection. Even the nasal spray containing a weakened (attenuated) virus cannot cause flu. Cold-adapted, they are designed only to multiply at cooler temperatures found in the nose, not the lungs or other, warmer areas.
- Your flu shot protects others who can’t get vaccinated. When you get your flu shot, you are protecting other members of your community who cannot receive their own, such as very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions (cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example). When enough people in a community are vaccinated, the overall spread of the virus is reduced, the potential burden on hospitals is eliminated, and those who are high-risk are protected from sickness.
In addition to getting vaccinated this year, the CDC suggests the following tips to reduce the spread of germs:
- Steer clear of people who are sick.
- Stay home if you, yourself, are sick or feeling ill.
- Cover your mouth and your nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water – after meals, when using public facilities, after shaking hands, and soon after touching anything that could be contaminated.
- Be cognizant of your hands and try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after being in public spaces.
- Keep hand sanitizer handy – use those that are at least 60% alcohol.
- Get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy meals.
- Keep surfaces in your environment clean.
Quality First Urgent Care continues to keep a close eye on flu activity in Maryland and is currently offering flu vaccinations at both of our Howard County clinics. Don’t forget: we are readily available this holiday season – and any time of year – if you are feeling ill or experiencing flu-like symptoms.