In the year 1900, the life expectancies of men and women were 40 and 42 respectively. The most common causes of death were influenza (flu) and pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections.
Things have dramatically changed over the last 118 years, with infections no longer being common causes of mortality. The introduction of penicillin to treat bacterial infections in 1942 helped pave the way for more research into the biology of infections and how to prevent them.
Vaccinations have successfully eradicated most viral infections from polio, chicken pox, and measles. While the vaccine was discovered in 1942, its production was not truly beneficial until 1972, when the World Health Organization (WHO) developed better technology to identify the viral strains infecting people.
Flu is most commonly spread through close contact, coughing and sneezing. Therefore, covering the mouth while coughing and sneezing, in addition to good hand-washing techniques, can help prevent spread of the virus.
Symptoms of flu include fever, chills, sweats, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose, muscle aches and fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there has been increased flu activity in the United States. So far, there have been five influenza-associated pediatric deaths this 2018-2019 flu season.
While thousands of people no longer die every flu season, there are groups that remain very susceptible, such as babies, young children, and elderly adults. Individuals with naïve or suppressed immune systems are the most susceptible to the flu.
Here are some things you should know about the flu vaccine:
- You cannot get the flu from the injectable vaccine given to most adults. Children and young adults are candidates for the vaccine as a nasal spray and rarely can develop cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, cough and fever.
- It takes two weeks after vaccination to develop full immunity.
- The flu vaccine is a combination vaccine against two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B.
The flu vaccine only protects you from specific influenza A and B strains. You could still end up with the flu even if vaccinated if you are infected with a different virus strain.
To help promote personal health and wellness, get an annual flu vaccine. While you may feel that you are healthy and immune to the flu, vaccinating yourself helps protect others around you as well and prevents transmission of the virus. Vaccination should occur every year due to the ongoing genetic changes in the viruses causing the disease every flu season.
Save a life with the flu vaccine. It is not too late to protect yourself and others this flu season. The vaccines are available through many employers, commercial labs, and directly from most pharmacies for a nominal fee.