In the internet age, it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially on medical matters. Internet Warriers create swathes of misinformation for their own inexplicable reasons and this information is carried forward as 'fact'. The Anti-vaxxer movement has caused huge amounts of damage to the nations health and wellbeing by loudly pronouncing their conspiracy theories and medically inaccurate 'facts'
As doctors, our only priority is YOU and your health. Here are 10 reasons why we think you should book your flu vaccine today.
1. A COLD IS NOT THE FLU
I can't stress this enough. Colds and Flu are different illnesses caused by different viruses. if you have been in bed for a few days feeling miserable then bounce back, it is not the flu. Flu is a serious illness that will keep you in bed for a few weeks and may take over a month to recover from.
2. FLU IS VERY CONTAGIOUS
The flu virus is spread by droplets or particles in the air, can spread over 6 feet and is active for several days on surfaces that it lands on. That means that if someone is three rows away from you on the bus, you are at risk. Touching any surface in a public area that has been touched by someone with the flu can spread the virus - so touching door-handles, surfaces, toys, taps etc all cause spread. Flu can be infectious from the day before symptoms arise, so people might not realise that they are infecting others.
3. FLU CAN'T BE TREATED WITH ANTIBIOTICS
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Flu is a viral infection and as such, antibiotics have NO effect on the severity or longevity of illness. If someone has a confirmed case of flu, they are occasionally offered an anti-viral medication, but these are of limited benefit.
4. FLU CAN LEAD TO SERIOUS MEDICAL COMPLICATIONS
Such as pneumonia, adult respiratory distress syndrome and death.
In the recent Australian flu epidemic, there were reports of healthy young adults having pus-filled lungs.
5. FLU IS NOT AGEIST
Clearly the elderly and very young are always more vulnerable to infectious diseases, however flu can hit previously healthy young adults with devastating consequences. Every year, healthy adults end up in ITU with serious consequences of flu. Its possible that this is because the elderly population may have already encountered various flu viruses in their lifetimes, but young adults may have never been unexposed.
6. MELBOURNE FLU IS PREDICTED THIS WINTER
Australia has just had its worst flu epidemic since records began. The Melbourne flu virus seems to be particularly infectious and people became much, much sicker than in previous years.
7. FOREIGN TRAVEL MEANS RAPID TRANSMISSION
Where previously, flu would travel slowly between villages, air travel and tourism can cause small outbreaks to become global pandemics, such as happened with the Swine flu outbreak from south America.
8. LAST YEARS VACCINE MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH PROTECTION
Every year, medical researchers need to survey global flu activity and predict which flu viruses will be most active, and include those in the annual vaccine. On top of that, the flu virus changes shape every year to try to evade detection. This is called viral shift and drift. There is a good chance that the virus will have changed shape since you were last vaccinated; and last years vaccine didn't include protection against Melbourne flu
9. PROTECT YOUR COMMUNITY AND FAMILY
Even if you think you are healthy enough to cope with the flu ( and you might not be - see point 5), there are members of the community who are too frail or ill to survive a bout of flu. If you work with the elderly, children, or in a healthcare setting, you have a moral obligation to protect your patients. If enough people are vaccinated, then herd immunity is formed and the virus has nowhere to spread to and dies out.
10. YOU CAN'T GET THE FLU FROM THE FLU INJECTION
Its biologically impossible. The flu vaccine is made from a small portion of the outer shell of the flu ( the antigens) or from a deactivated virus therefore there is NO LIVE VIRUS available to create disease. Some people might feel achy or feverish after the vaccine. This is a transient immune response, but it is NOT the flu. The only way you can get the flu straight after a vaccine is if you were already infected and were going to get it anyway.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLU?
1. Get you and your family Vaccinated. This is the best protection available
2. Avoid close contact with people who are unwell
3. WASH your hands if you have been out in public, on buses or in shops. Hand washing with soap and water saves lives in hospitals and can protect you and your family too. Carry hand sanitizer if you are eating in public.
4. The Queen always wears gloves in public to prevent picking up germs whilst shaking hands. Be like the Queen and wear gloves if its practical.
5. Try to avoid touching your face. Its a habit that we all have, but if you have picked up a virus on your hands, then you will transfer it to your airways if you touch your face.
6. Don't go outside if you are unwell. Stay off work and away from public areas until you are better. If you need to see the doctor, ask them to make a home visit to prevent spreading infection to the waiting room
7. Teach good cough etiquette. Covering your mouth when coughing and disposing of handkerchiefs after sneezing significantly reduces viral spread.
Flu is a killer disease. Please don't let fear and misinformation prevent you from protecting yourself and your family. Book your vaccine today.
In our next article about vaccines, we will be debunking common myths spread by anti-vaxxers, including Mercury, Autism and Formaldehyde
by Dr Heather Robertson