Flu Vaccination Protects Lives And Helps Avert Illness

New CDC study says vaccination works, local lives prove it makes a difference


DAYTON, Ohio (September 10, 2013) – Those who think the flu vaccination is nothing more than a shot in the dark when it comes to averting the winter season’s biggest bug may want to consider the alternative.

Getting the flu vaccination may mean a 30-minute visit to the doctor’s office or local health clinic, whereas fighting the flu can mean up to two weeks of battling a debilitating illness, and potentially spreading it to someone who is in no condition to fight it. It’s a hard reality that Tina Walker had to face this past year when she chose not to get a flu shot and contracted the Influenza B virus as a result.

“I was so sick it was awful,” Walker said. “I ended up in my doctor’s office three different times and she finally told me I would just have to go home and go to bed and rest. I told her I would never go without a flu shot again.”

The flu shot has been an annual event for Walker since her 19-year-old son Levi was diagnosed with heredity spherocytosis as a child. The rare blood disorder cost Levi his spleen at age five and has transformed the way the Walker family deals with sickness and handles germs.

“My son doesn’t have the ability to fight infection,” said Walker, who had been faithful to get her shot every year until this past one. “Without a spleen, if he runs a fever of 102 or higher, he has to be hospitalized.”

Thankfully, Levi got his own flu vaccination last year and did not end up getting the virus. But the idea that she could have potentially passed the virus on to her son was perhaps harder to take than the two full weeks of missed work due to the excessive body aches, fever and fatigue. Unfortunately, most individuals don’t view the flu as the Walker family does. For many, the shot seems inconvenient and not of great importance, especially if they are in good health. But Walker’s physician, Dori Thompson, MD, at Springboro Family Medicine, said it is important to think of the vaccination’s greater good.

“What people don’t realize is how easy it is to spread the flu,” Dr. Thompson said. “And healthy people don’t think about the impact they could have on high-risk individuals if they were to spread the flu to them. There are a lot of people who think they’ll chance it and if they do get the flu they’ll just stay home for a couple of days. But remember you can transfer the flu to people before you even have symptoms and you don’t know who you will be coming in contact with – it could be someone with asthma or COPD.”

A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this past June shows that the flu vaccination prevents significant flu illness, doctor’s visits and hospitalizations. The study – which used data collected from 2005 to 2011 – estimated that the vaccination prevented 13.6 million flu cases, 5.8 million medical visits and nearly 113,000 flu-related hospitalizations in the United States over the six-year period.

Dora Ruff likes to think she’s one of those averted cases. Ruff suffers from extreme allergy, asthma and sinus issues. Her condition is so severe that she has undergone sinus surgery and still has to receive two allergy shots a week. The flu vaccination is a priority for Ruff and her family.

“Getting the flu is not even an option,” Ruff said.

The 2012-2013 flu season arrived early and was severe. Many who contracted the illness were overcome by its symptoms: “I had people crying in my exam rooms because they felt so badly,” Dr. Thompson said. Still, doctors say the season was a good wake up call for those who have become complacent about the flu vaccination because of the preceding flu seasons that were much milder.

It is impossible to predict the severity of an upcoming flu season and that is why Dr. Thompson advises patients to get their flu vaccination early, regardless of their health. She also urges those with high-risk health issues – such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD and asthma – to see their doctor during flu season if they begin to experience any flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms can include fever, cough, extreme body aches, high fever and fatigue. The quicker the flu is diagnosed, the better chance there is to treat it with antiviral medications.

To learn more about the flu virus and vaccinations visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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