The 2020-2021 flu season was unexpectedly mild. This can be attributed to the efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing face masks, washing hands, reducing in-person interactions, and increasing indoor ventilation was meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus; however, it also curbed the spread of the flu. Due to loosening restrictions, it is reasonable to believe this flu season will see more activity. There are multiple ways to keep yourself and others safe and healthy this season.
Everyday Practices to Prevent the Flu
- The flu is spread through droplets in the air so, covering your coughs and sneezes will help to keep your germs contained.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes. If you must, it is recommended you wash your hands before and after.
- Stay away from those who have been diagnosed with the flu or anyone displaying related symptoms.
- Disinfect all frequently touched surfaces especially those that could have encountered the virus.
- If you fall ill with the flu, remain home for at least 24 hours after your fever ends to prevent infecting others.
The Flu Vaccine
Millions of people get the flu each year, causing hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths. The severity of the flu varies from person to person. While most people who get the flu develop symptoms lasting a couple of days, there are those who develop more extreme complications: pneumonia, ear infections, or sinus infections. Those who have asthma, diabetes, or congestive heart failure are especially at risk of complications.
The CDC remains certain the best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated. According to a 2021 study, those who receive the vaccine have a 31% lower chance of death and 26% lower chance of ICU admission. The 2019-2020 flu vaccination prevented about 7.5 million flu cases.
Flu Vaccine Misconceptions Corrected
- The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. When you receive the flu shot, you are being injected with a single protein of the virus, not the whole thing. If you receive the vaccination in the form of a nasal spray, your dose is significantly weakened, which cannot cause illness.
- It is safer to get the flu shot than to contract the flu. The side effects of the vaccine (soreness, redness, or swelling at the site) are much less serious than the complications of contracting the flu virus.
- You need the vaccine every year. Like many vaccines, people need an annual dose as their immune protection declines with time. The flu virus constantly evolves, so every year the vaccine is reviewed and altered to best fight and protect against the most commonly circulating variety. The 2021-2022 flu vaccines are designed to protect against four different flu viruses.
- While it is best to get vaccinated at the beginning of flu season or the beginning of fall, you can get the shot at any time while the flu is active within the population. The virus is typically most active between December and March.
Information provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.