Awareness is defined as “having knowledge or cognizance: aware of the difference between the two versions; watchful.” With that in mind it only seems fitting that on Texas Influenza Awareness Day I do my best to make sure we are fully aware of the importance of vaccinating against the flu. There are many people who continue to claim that the flu is nothing more than a “bad cold” that will pass on its own and that vaccination is just a waste of time. Others claim that the flu vaccine is inefficient and even go so far as to claim the vaccine is the reason they developed the flu in the past despite scientific evidence that validates the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. So let’s all take a moment to be knowledgeable about the flu and the importance of protecting ourselves and our communities.
Let’s start off by being AWARE of what you can do to prevent the flu. First and foremost, get your flu shot! The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. This is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. There are many different flu viruses and each year the vaccine is developed and designed to protect against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause illness during flu season. Taking this important preventative step along with diligent hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are infected is the best way to prevent the spread of this virus.
What else should we be aware of? We need to be AWARE that the flu vaccine is effective! How well the flu vaccine works can range from one season the next but the biggest indicators of the vaccines effectiveness are the characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as age and health) and the similarity between the flu viruses and the flu vaccine. Receiving a flu shot decreases the risk of getting the flu plain and simple. In fact, recent studies show risk of flu illness is decreased by about 60% among the overall population of vaccinated individuals.
And finally let’s be AWARE that the flu is serious and can cause life-threatening complications. High-risk children and adults may develop complications such as, pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections. Pneumonia is the most common and most serious. For older adults and people with a chronic illness, pneumonia can be deadly. The best protection is vaccination.
So now that we are AWARE do your part. Get vaccinated and encourage those around you to do the same!