Flu season facts and myths

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As the school term winds up, the weather’s getting colder and the days are getting shorter. With all the excitement and chaos surrounding this time of year, it can be easy to forget about one of the worst parts of the season: the flu.

Here are 10 facts and myths about the flu so that you can be fully prepared to combat it this fall.

Myth #1 — The flu isn’t that serious.

Fact #1 — While it’s true for some people, the flu can just feel like a bad cold, for others it can be more serious. For individuals with a weakened immune system, the flu can be life threatening. According to the CDC, people who are at the highest risks of developing flu related complications include; children under five, seniors, pregnant women and individuals who suffer from chronic health issues (asthma, diabetes and heart diseases among others) that can be made more serious by the flu.

Myth #2 — The flu shot can give you the flu.

Fact #2 — The modern flu shot is produced in two ways, either containing a strain of the disease that is “inactivated” (not infectious) or without any flu virus at all. People who get the flu after getting the vaccine were likely infected before or directly after receiving the vaccine.

Myth #3 — The flu vaccine works immediately

Fact #3 — The body can take up to two weeks to build the necessary antibodies to fight influenza. If an individual is exposed to the virus in this time, they may develop the flu, despite having been vaccinated against it.

Myth #4 — The flu vaccine is ineffective, so why bother?

Fact #4 — The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year but it usually averages somewhere between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. Some years the vaccines effectiveness has been as low as 10 per cent. Still, that’s better than nothing and no one can know for certain how effective a particular version of the vaccine is until the end of the flu season. It’s best to get the shot, odds are it will protect you better than not getting it.

Myth #5 — I never get the flu, I shouldn’t bother getting the shot.

Fact #5 — Many things can contribute to how often someone does or doesn’t get the flu. While some people have naturally strong immune systems, that doesn’t mean they’re completely safe from the virus. Sometimes you might not get the flu because everyone around you has the flu shot, and so you haven’t been exposed to it.

Myth #6 — I got the flu shot last year so I can skip this year’s

Fact #6 — The flu changes every year. New strains develop that may be completely resistant to last year’s vaccine. Even if the antibodies remain in your system, they might be completely useless against this year’s strain of flu.

Myth #7 — I have to have a fever to actually have the flu and be contagious.

Fact #7 — You can have no symptoms at all and still be sick with the flu. Not everybody presents every symptom right away, and some people may become infected without realizing due to their relatively mild symptoms.

Myth #8 — Flu season only lasts a couple months

Fact #8 — the flu season typically begins in December and can last until May, that’s a good six months where you may be at risk of contracting the flu.

Myth #9 — Getting vaccinated is the only way I can prevent myself from getting the flu.

Fact #9 — It’s true that getting the vaccine does help, and significantly lowers your risk of getting the flu, there are other measures that can be taken to reduce your risk even further. Washing and sanitizing your hands thoroughly is one of the most effective, particularly after touching doorknobs, faucets and any other commonly touched, communal objects.

Myth #10 — I can get the flu by going out in snow

Fact #10 — The only way that the flu can be contracted is through exposure to the virus, being cold on its own cannot make you sick.

All in all, getting the flu sucks, especially when you’re a student with better things to do than lay in bed and feel bad all day. Get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available, with your doctor, at a local pharmacy, or at any public health clinic. After all, who wants to spend their free time sick in bed falling behind on class work?

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