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Flu shot: facts, myths and why you should get one

By Gabby Katz

Section: Arts

October 1, 2010

GRAPHIC BY Ariel Wittenberg/The Hoot

Flu season always creeps up on us. We don’t even realize that we’re sniffling in class until we’re at the point that we can’t hear the teacher over the unanimous coughing of the lecture hall. Even after incessantly Purell-ing our hands, the building combination of sleep deprivation and stress from classes makes us a target for getting sick and catching the latest ’deis bug. Worst of all, we usually shrug off these cold symptoms or mask them with Sudafed and Dayquil, hoping they will disappear soon. This sometimes is OK, but what happens when you are suddenly hit with the flu? You are now quarantined; feel like death, are oinking and growing a piggy tail, and miles behind in school work. Swine ’09 was not a fun time and probably won’t be so great in 2010 either. What could you have done differently to prevent this?

Let’s be real, we’re most likely not going to be able to sleep more, reduce our stress about school work or drastically change our eating habits to a balanced diet. With this in mind, what is one realistic measure we could take to prevent the flu?

Oh right, the flu shot!

Love the Brandeis Health Center e-mails. But, what about all those things we hear like “you can get the flu from the flu shot,” “the flu shot does not actually prevent you from getting the flu,” “you can be allergic to the flu shot,” or my favorite: “you don’t need a flu shot, because you’re probably not going to get the flu.” It is hard to sort out from what we hear as fact or myth, therefore I have provided you with quick and easy bullet-points from the Centers for Disease Control that highlight the reality about the flu shot in order to better help you make an informed decision about getting the shot.

MYTHS:

• In order to be vaccinated for the flu, you need to get a flu shot via a scary needle.

Actually, there is an alternative vaccination in the form of a nasal spray made with live, weakened flu viruses that is approved for healthy people ages two to 49 and who are not pregnant.

• The flu shot can actually give you the flu.

Wrong again. The virus in the flu shot is inactivated so they can’t cause infection. Sometimes the immune system’s response can make people feel unwell for a few days but they don’t actually get the flu from the shot.

• I have the same likelihood of getting the flu with or without the shot.

False, according the National Institute of Health, college students are at increased risk initially for the flu due to close living quarters and this risk is increased even more without vaccination.

• The flu shot is too expensive for my poor-man’s college student budget

The flu shot only costs $20, which, when factoring the cost of Tamiflu, Sudafed, orange juice and a pounding headache, is well worth its price.

FACTS:

• You can get the flu even if you get the flu shot.

Yup, this is true, and you might be wondering why you should get the shot if you can still get the virus. But people who get the flu after the shot usually get it because they were infected before they were innoculated, were infected with a different strain or have a weakened immune system. That being said, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent.

• There are other ways I can protect myself from the flu besides the vaccine.

Of course, by implementing good hygiene habits like covering your cough, washing your hands and not sharing drinks you can lower your risk of infection. However, you can’t trust the hygiene habits of your peers to be up to par, so it’s best to get the shot too.

After reading all these facts and myths, I think there is a clear conclusion on what you should do during the flu season … .GET VACCINATED AS SOON AS YOU CAN! If you choose not to, that’s fine too, just don’t get me sick.

Tune in next week for more health tips and, as always, please send me an e-mail me at gkatz10@brandeis.edu with any health-related questions you may have.

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