Why You Are Foolish Not To Get a Flu Shot Right Now

January 2nd 2015

Mike Vainisi

We're in the middle of a tough flu season.

Twenty-two states and Puerto Rico are reporting high flu intensity. The Center for Disease Control says we have an epidemic. While the CDC says that every year, we are ahead of last year in terms of flu cases. Google Trends, which looks at certain search terms as indicators of flu activity, shows a big spike in flu searches over the last month:

Google Trends - Flu

“We’re already above the peak that we saw last year, and we’re increasing,” Dr. Michael Jhung from the Influenza Division of the CDC, told the New York Times. Jhung also predicted that we should expect to see increasing amounts of flu cases over the next few weeks.

Why is the flu worse this year?

According to the CDC, this year's flu vaccine was not a great match for the flu that's spreading. (You should still get a flu shot, though.) Additionally, the flu got an early start on us this year, which is accounting for some of the increase.

Flu vaccine facts

Image h/t Skeptical Raptor

What to do?

First of all, if you have not already, go get a flu shot. 

Wait, didn't you say the flu vaccine was not as effective this year?

Yes, the vaccine is not as effective protecting against the H3N2 virus this season. However, the CDC still strongly recommends getting the vaccine. For one, it will provide some protection against that virus. Also, it will protect against other viruses that could become more common later in the season. 

Can't I just take vitamins?

No. Some people believe that you can just take vitamin C or some other combination of vitamins to prevent the flu. Medical professionals dismiss this idea.

"None of these concoctions has any efficacy whatsoever against influenza," Dr. Mark Crislip wrote. "If you think oscillococcinum has any efficacy, I would like you to invest in a perpetual-motion machine I have invented. None of the above either prevent or treat influenza. And you can't "boost" your immune system either. Anyone who suggests otherwise wants your money, not to improve your health."

But I am young and healthy. I won't get the flu.

Anyone can get the flu. Certain people are more vulnerable, such as young children, people over 65, and pregnant women, but youth and vitality will not protect you.

What else should I do?

Remember that the flu is contagious between people. So, wash your hands with soap and water. If that's not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Also, do not share stuff with sick people. That includes linens, eating utensils, or dishes. Also, clean areas at home, school, or work that are constantly in contact with people's hands.

What are the symptoms again?

Here's what the CDC says to look out for -- if you have this stuff, you may have the flu:

  • fever (although not everyone gets a fever)
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

If you are sick, stay home. Also, see a medical health professional.