The flu this year is brutal. Across the country, mayors are declaring states of emergency and doctors are urging their patients to get vaccinated. Quickly.
More than 2,000 people have died of flu-related complications this year and some are saying the outbreak could be far from over.
Doctors are saying it's the type of virus this year that is predominantly circulating -- influenza A (H3N2) -- which accounts for about 76 percent of the viruses reported, causes higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths than other strains, and that influenza vaccination offers the best protection against influenza. So why are so few people getting vaccinated?
Answer: they are scared. There is so much misinformation out there about the flu vaccine that many are terrified to expose their children to it. But they are wrong. And that misinformation could really hurt their children. Dr. Omar Baker, Chief Officer of Clinical Operations at the Riverside Pediatric Group, spoke exclusively to The Stir and shared 11 things every parent should know about the flu and preventative vaccination. See below:
1.) It's Not JUST the Flu This Year: "The country is in the midst of three emerging flu or flu-like epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus; a surge in a new type of norovirus; and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years," Dr. Baker says.
2.) Vaccination Greatly Reduces Flu Death: "The public’s growing awareness of the importance of influenza vaccination has caused flu-associated pediatric deaths to decrease from 282 during 2009-2010 to 34 during 2011-2012."
3.) There IS No Link Between Autism and Vaccines: "The most comprehensive scientific studies and reviews have ruled out any link between autism and vaccines," says Dr. Baker. "Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies also agree that vaccines are not responsible for the number of children with autism."
4.) Vaccination Starts at 6 Months: "Most children 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated for influenza every year."
5.) How It Spreads: "Experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby."
6.) You Need a New Vaccine EVERY Year: "A flu vaccine is required every year because flu viruses are constantly evolving, and new flu viruses appear almost every year."
7.) The Vaccine Is Not Full of "Preservatives": "A number of pediatric offices, including Riverside, use a preservative-free flu vaccine that is free of thimerosal, a mercury-based ingredient."
8.) The Side Effects Are Minimal: "The benefits of flu vaccination as preventive medicine far outweigh its minimal side effects, such as fever, irritability, and some discomfort -- a little pain, redness, and tenderness at the site of injection -- especially when compared to the grief and trauma these diseases can bring."
9.) Not Everyone Is Eligible for Vaccination: "Some babies might be too young to be completely vaccinated and other family members may not be able to receive vaccinations due to allergies, illness, a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome -- a severe paralytic illness -- weakened immune systems, or religious beliefs."
10.) Know Your Odds: "Children are far more likely to stay healthy if they receive their immunizations than if they do not."
11.) Vaccination Is Not the Be-All, End-All: "Parents should constantly remind children about the importance of good hand washing and avoidance of those with cold symptoms."
Have you gotten your flu shot yet?
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