Health Column: Why I never catch the flu

Health Column: Why I never catch the flu

It’s true -- it seems like people all around you never catch the flu and it isn’t until a family member or good friend gets sick that we rethink our decision to skip this year’s influenza vaccine.

“Flu shots don’t work!” Yes, they do work. They help prevent pandemics (global epidemic). They also help prevent the flu virus from becoming stronger – and more lethal.

Influenza is alive. It eats. It thrives and spreads. That’s what viruses do. Influenza infects animals and humans. The virus evolves to survive which is why the vaccinations have such a banged-up reputation.

It isn’t that the vaccinations don’t work – they do protect us. They just may not offer the absolute protection we have become so accustomed to. In other words, the flu vaccine is not the polio vaccine, although we all wish otherwise!

“Flu shots make me sick!” No, flu shots do not make us sick. I repeat ... the influenza vaccine cannot be blamed for giving us the flu.

Typically, we are ill because we waited too long and we were exposed before we were vaccinated. Also, we may feel bad for a day or two afterward because our immune systems may be compromised by a completely unrelated chronic or acute illness.

Chronic illnesses that make us weaker include asthma, diabetes, lupus and gout. Examples of an acute illness are the common cold, stomach virus, or sinusitis and bronchitis.

“I never catch the flu!” Russian roulette is not my thing, folks. I am not a gambler. The odds are never in my favor when it comes to the latest outbreak of anything.

I remember insisting that mosquitoes don’t like me, and I promise you – rarely did I suffer from mosquito bites! I have no idea what changed or when it happened but this past July 4th was memorable -- as in 20 or more mosquito bites before the fireworks even began! I’m still mystified about how I managed to avoid being bitten for so many years.

The Centers for Disease Control has devoted pages and pages online to educate us about the importance of the flu vaccine for ourselves, our children, parents and co-workers. The information is excellent, easy to read and understand and gives great historical data.

It even tracks the “novel” influenza A viruses discovered. These are the mutations the influenza vaccine tries so hard to prevent from happening. Last year a group of kids visited a farm and the result was a unique strain of swine flu for the children. Can you imagine that happening around here? I sure can.

I never catch the flu. It’s true. I don’t catch the flu because once, several years ago, I was too busy to get a vaccine. I caught the flu, and became too ill to care for my small children or go to work. Then my youngest became seriously ill with the flu when I was barely well enough to dress myself. Once was enough for me.

I never catch the flu because I am relieved to be vaccinated. I realize receiving the vaccine is not a promise that can’t be broken. I also know that because I am vaccinated, I likely won’t die from complications; I won’t infect children or the elderly while at work, grocery shopping or visiting my grandson at school and I will become part of the solution to the very real threat of a global flu epidemic or pandemic.

Kinston Community Health Center offers the flu vaccine without an appointment to patients. The vaccines will be available in October. Older, pediatric and patients with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk and should be vaccinated as soon as possible. Please visit www.cdc.gov/flu for some excellent information!

Melissa (Bailey) Castillo
Community Outreach Director
Kinston Community Health Center
melissa.bailey@kinstonchc.org

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