I work as a health educator in the Community Health Improvement Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Educating people to make healthy choices and to take measures to prevent illness is what we do; however, it took me a few years to realize that by not getting the flu vaccine, I was putting not only myself at risk of illness, but others, too. I kept thinking, “I am healthy, I won’t get the flu,” but the truth is, even healthy people can get the flu — and spread it to others.
Working at the UVM Medical Center, I am surrounded by thousands of employees and patients. Many patients’ immune systems are already compromised. I realized it just wasn’t about me anymore. I get my flu vaccine every year now, and am grateful that it reduces my risk of getting the flu. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community.
According to the CDC, “Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.” It feels good knowing I am doing my part to help reduce those numbers.
You can help prevent the spread of the flu by getting the vaccine, and taking other preventative measures such as:
- Covering your cough
- Washing your hands often and well
- Keeping yourself healthy with rest, exercise, and eating healthy foods
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Staying home if you get sick
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
The CDC indicates that the seasonal flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. The time to act is now. Your body takes about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine to develop protective antibodies against infection. For the 2013-2014 flu season, there are many vaccine options available depending on your age and if you have allergies.
It is especially important that people at increased risk of serious flu complications get vaccinated against the flu:
- People 50 years of age and older
- Young children, especially younger than 2 years old
- People with chronic lung disease (such as asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, and certain other long-term health conditions
- Pregnant women
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers, and household contacts
Your health care provider may be able to administer you the vaccine, and flu clinics are available through many local pharmacies and agencies like the Visiting Nurse Association. You can also find a flu clinic in your area and learn more about the flu shot.
For more information contact the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at 802-847-8821. We hope you have a happy and healthy season!
Learn more at http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/flu/.
Kristine Buck is a Health Educator at the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at the University of Vermont Medical Center.