For four years, World War 1 ravaged this planet. The conflict killed over 16 million people in that short time frame. At its’ end, the population of the world was exhausted, the conflict had damaged the supply chains for food, but the war was over… And then came the flu. One result of the war was the weakening of the populace around the world. The emotional trauma, and the shortage of supplies weakened human immune systems around the globe. In just a matter of a few months, the flu killed a full 3% of the world’s population: 50 million people. More than three times the people slaughtered in the four years of war.
One hundred years later, the flu remains largely misunderstood. I’ve heard many a sincere person say things like “if you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch the flu, “ or “Cold weather causes the flu.” Heck growing up, my mother would caution us against opening our bedroom windows at night, reciting a ditty she had learned as a child—“When Springtime came, they opened up their windows, and In Flu Enza.” Yes, many myths remain about this viral terror.
The CDC estimates that at least 5% of the US population will contract the flu in a low year. In a high-risk year, that number surges to over 20%. And the flu can be deadly, causing pneumonia, respiratory failure, or heart failure. And this year’s strain seems to oddly be targeting those considered the most healthy—much like the 1918 version.
So, as the subject is actually life or death serious, and much of the populace remains confused as to the truth about the flu, I decided today to turn to the good folks at Harvard Medical School to dispel some of the most serious myths about flu.
Myth 1: You can catch the flu from the flu shot. This is absolutely false. The flu vaccine uses a dead strain of the flu virus. It is therefore impossible for the flu vaccine to cause the flu. If you happen to catch the flu after receiving the shot, that simply means that you were exposed to a different strain, or were already infected—It can take from 1- 4 days to develop any early symptoms of the flu after being exposed.
Myth 2: Healthy people don’t need to be vaccinated. Again, false, especially this year, as this strain oddly seems to be especially troublesome among those considered healthy.
Myth 3: Since the Flu shot is only 10% effective this year, I shouldn’t bother with it.Again, false. In fact, some good friends of ours bear this out. Two of the family members got the flu shot, two did not. Everyone in the family contracted the flu, but those with the flu shot recovered within two days, those without, a full week. The shot may not eliminate the infection, but it can still severely shorten its’ duration.
Myth 4: Getting the flu vaccine is all you need to do to prevent it. No again. You still need to wash your hands regularly, and avoid contact with those who are infected.
Medical myths contribute to the spread of the flu. They cost lives. If you contract the flu, for God’s sake, do not keep going in to work. If you are caring for a family member with flu, strongly consider getting a prescription for Tamiflu for yourself, and consider quarantine yourself to avoid spreading the contagion. The flu is much worse than a bad cold: it can and does kill. So, take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones. Ignore the myths, but learn the facts, and stay healthy. Live Loved, Give Love, and wash your hands often!