Give the gift of good health, get a flu shot

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While you’re in the throes of figuring out what to get for those difficult-to-buy-for people on your shopping list, think about getting something for yourself that’s a gift to everyone. My suggestion, if you haven’t done so already, is to get a flu shot.

Being vaccinated against influenza protects you and those in our community who can’t, for one reason or another, get vaccinated themselves. Let’s start with babies under six months old and then work into those with allergies to the ingredients and to the elderly with compromised immune systems.

An article published on NPR’s website states that “scientists have come to realize that flu vaccines are less effective for people who are overweight or obese. Considering that excess weight affects more than two-thirds of the U.S. adult population, that’s a significant shortcoming.”

However the article says that although it may not work as well, it’s still important for everyone to get a flu shot.

“People of all body types are at higher risk of heart attack or stroke if the get the flu. There are a lot of reasons to get the flu shot even if it doesn’t work as well as we want in this high risk-population.”

It just adds fuel to the theory that the more of us vaccinated against the flu will result in fewer cases in the general public. It’s called herd immunity and it’s important.

Since it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, a shot this week will give you protection before the holidays when you’ll most likely be around a lot more people than usual.

This is a really good time to remind you to wash your hands frequently, be sure to use the wipes provided at stores with shopping carts and to use good manners when sneezing or coughing.

If you’re around someone showing symptoms try to stay at least six feet away from them.

Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an article published on Healthline.com said, “Based on today’s surveillance report, flu activity is increasing nationally with significant spread of H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B/Vic-toria viruses. Different viruses are predominate in different places and among different age groups. Parts of the country are seeing an early start to their flu season, but other parts of the country are still seeing little activity.”

So far, we’re the latter. The CDC lists Idaho as “sporadic” in their state-by-state report. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have a mild flu season.

That can always change at a drop of a hat or more specifically at the drop of mucus from an infected person or two.

“While there are many different flu viruses, flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common,” the CDC says. “Three component vaccines contain an H3N2, an H1N1 and a B virus. Four component vaccines have an additional B virus component.”

There are different vaccines for different ages. Your primary care provider or pharmacist will know exactly which one you should get. If you’re concerned, you might ask specifically if you’re getting the correct dosage.

I say that because a vaccinated friend of mine came down with influenza B and we were questioning if she had received the correct vaccination. Apparently she had. Read on.

“About 60 percent of the virus characterized so far has been influenza B, and the majority of that strain is not covered by the (2019-20) vaccine.

That said, the flu vaccination is still the best way to prevent flu.

Even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, it may still provide some protection from getting severely ill,” says Dr. Eric A. Weiss, emergency medicine physician at Stanford Health Care.

The strain we’re seeing now may not be what we’ll see throughout flu season. Just when the experts think they’ve figured it out a different strain will pop up. “Influenza viruses can quickly change and swing another way,” Weiss said.

Nothing’s perfect, is it? But, I still can’t think of a really good reason not to get a flu shot.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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