Flu season is here, are you ready?

Travis McMullen - Contributing Columnist

Travis McMullen

Contributing Columnist


It seems you can get a flu shot just about anywhere these days – at work, at school, at a medical facility and even at your friendly neighborhood pharmacy/general store. Soon maybe they’ll have drive-thru flu shots. Just put your arm through the next window. Maybe they’ll have flu shots at the bar so you can take some shots while you get your shot.

“Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states.

Yes, it seems to me we consistently think too little of the annual coming of the flu – between the years of 1918 and 1920 an influenza pandemic killed anywhere from 50-100 million people and our neighboring state of Kansas was the location of the first documented American infection.

The flu virus is a living thing and it is always evolving; with every transmission it learns a little more about how to infect the living body and it is always striving to hop over to a different species. Yes, its advances in medical science mean it is unlikely that any given strain of flu will reach 1918 levels of deadliness. But it’s not impossible. On any given day the virus could stumble upon the right combination of factors to unlock its ultimate potential.

And because it is a dynamic organism it can be hard to make sure the vaccine that has been delivered to the American public is the right one. The doctors and scientists who work on developing the shot each year basically have to make their best guess as to which three or four potential strains are the most likely to become the dominant strain for the upcoming flu season.

“If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher,” the CDC site states. “If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications.”

Now I’m no medical professional and you should definitely consult with your doctor or other trusted medical professional before making any health decisions, but if you can afford it you should probably get your flu shot. It’s going to be cheaper than losing at least one day of work due to the flu. Since Feb. 24, 2010, a CDC advisory committee proposed everyone 6 months of age or older should get the shot.

And you might be thinking, “But what if the shot doesn’t work and it causes me to get the flu?” That’s a common misconception – the vaccination can fail to take and you can subsequently catch the flu but the shot can’t cause it because it’s made out of dead flu virus. It’s a soup of microscopic virus corpses that allows your body to develop a means to fight the live ones.

“A flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness,” according to the CDC.

Even if you’re scared of needles a momentary bit of terror is preferable to a couple days of solid flu, isn’t it?

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.

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