PINEHURST, N.C. – Each year, millions of Americans get the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about eight percent of the U.S. population will get sick from the flu.
Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized due to complications that include pneumonia and inflammation of the heart, and thousands die. Since 2010 the CDC estimates that the yearly death toll from influenza-related illness has been from 12,000 to a high of over 79,000 during the 2017-18 flu season.
The CDC says the best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. James Liffrig, M.D., medical director of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Convenient Care program, agrees.
James Liffrig, M.D.
“The flu virus changes each year, so manufacturers identify and produce vaccine that works against the most prevalent types,” Liffrig, who also practices family medicine at First Health Family Medicine in Seven Lakes, says. “While the vaccine is not perfect, it is safe and offers very good protection. Even if you do get the flu after vaccination, it will likely be much less severe than if you haven’t had the vaccine. Your risk of severe complications and even death are significantly less.”
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination, and they provide protection against infection from the virus strains that are in the vaccine.
Recent studies from the CDC show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness between 40 and 60 percent, but this varies from year to year.
Flu shots are available to walk-in patients at all seven FirstHealth Convenient Care locations. Patients seeing FirstHealth family medicine, primary care or internal medicine providers should contact the office for flu clinic days or schedule an appointment to get their flu shot.
Liffrig said people shouldn’t be concerned about getting sick from getting a vaccine.
“It’s a safe vaccine,” he says. “One cannot contract flu from the injectable vaccine that we have available. The minor aches or fatigue that one may experience after receiving any vaccine are most likely due to the body’s immunity building response to the injection.”
Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated, but especially those in certain high-risk populations such as people with chronic disease, pregnant women and women who have given birth within two weeks, children younger than five years (especially those younger than two years), adults age 50 years and over, and people with weakened immune systems due to disease or medication.
ABOUT THE FLU
Flu is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms can be mild to severe and include sore throat, runny nose, cough, fever, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue.
Besides the vaccine, keeping these steps in mind can help prevent the flu:
- Avoid contact with people who have flu-like symptoms. Don’t shake their hands, share utensils, etc.
- Keep your hands clean – wash them or use hand sanitizer as often as possible.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to help reduce the risk of transmission of airborne droplets.
- If you are sick – stay home!
- Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose and mouth – especially if you feel sick.
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your FirstHealth provider or visit a Convenient Care clinic.