Some of us are just so healthy we don't feel a need to get a flu shot. We haven't had the flu in years, so why bother - right?
According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society and its Institute for Good Medicine, you should bother - for yourself and especially for those around you. Each year, approximately 226,000 people in the US are hospitalized with complications from influenza and an average of 36,000 die from the virus and its complications.
A recent statewide Patient Poll conducted by the Pennsylvania Medical Society's Institute for Good Medicine shows that less than half of the respondents plan to get a flu shot. Respondents also indicated they were less concerned about spreading the flu to co-workers and missing work, than about spreading the flu to family members or catching it themselves.
"The spread of influenza is a very serious health concern - it is highly contagious and potentially life-threatening. We're asking Pennsylvanians to 'Take a Shot!' to protect yourself and everyone else around you - especially those at risk," notes Peter S. Lund, MD, president of the Medical Society and chair of the Institute for Good Medicine.
"Take a Shot!" if you or anyone you come in contact with fits one of these categories:
- Adults or children with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), weakened immune system, diabetes
- Children under the age of 5
- Children ages 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin treatment
- Women who will be pregnant during flu season
- Adults ages 50 and over
- Residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes
- Healthcare workers
"Almost as many people in the US die each year from influenza as from motor vehicle accidents," cites Medical Society member Jennifer Goldstein, MD, an internist from Hershey, Pa. "Many patients think of the flu as a bad cold, which it's not. It's much more severe. Influenza can last 2-3 weeks and can cause extremely serious complications including pneumonia and organ failure."
William Lander, MD, past president of the Medical Society and family practitioner in Bryn Mawr, Pa., notes a decline in the number of influenza cases he's treated over the years. "I've encouraged my patients to receive annual flu shots and it's made a significant difference."
He urges patients to contact their primary care physician now about getting a flu shot. "Don't wait for your doctor to ask if you've had a flu shot; go get one!"
"It's simple," says Dr. Lund. "Please get a flu shot - this year and every year. If more people get immunized, we'll all be healthier." Dr. Lund adds that a person can get immunized through February.
Protect yourself and those around you from the flu by getting an annual flu shot, and also take these measures to minimize the spread of Influenza: