By Carol Pearson
The 2017 flu season was particularly bad in the Northern Hemisphere. Nearly 80,000 people died in America, including 180 children. Already this year, the virus has claimed the life of a child in the south.
Bucks County has had 21 confirmed flu cases this season, but state data does not break down the cases by age. In addition, many people who come down with the flu never get their cases confirmed, and therefore, never end up being accounted for in data.
Last flu season, Pennsylvania reported more than 121,000 confirmed cases and 256 deaths.
A Florida hospital recently surveyed parents throughout the U.S. to find out why some don’t get their children immunized even though it could put them in danger.
Why get the shot?
Kids are very effective spreaders of disease. Just ask Ehren McMichael, mom of three.
“My husband and I just assume if one kids gets it, it’s do the best you can and then hope for the best because more than likely, someone else in the house will come down with it as well,” she said.
Even though kids don’t like getting a shot, McMichael’s kids, including her daughter Hannah, know why they get one.
“It helps protect you from the flu, and so when you go to school, your friends don’t catch it,” Hannah said.
The same is true for her son Brayden.
“It’s better to get a shot than get sick,” he said.
Flu shot myths busted
Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Florida surveyed parents across America and found a significant number of them are misinformed about the vaccine. The survey found that more than half the parents questioned think children can get the flu from the shot, a third don’t think the vaccine works, and almost that many think the flu vaccine causes autism.
Dr. Jean Moorjani, at Orlando Health, tries to help parents understand why their kids should get vaccinated against the flu.
“Doctors recommend the flu vaccine because we know, based on science and research and facts, that it is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu,” she said.
“You cannot get autism from the flu vaccine. It is not a conspiracy for doctors to recommend the flu vaccine. The parts of the virus that are used are completely dead, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot,” she added.
Get your shot early
Scientists try to figure out what strains of flu are likely to circulate in a given year, but even if they guess wrong, Moorjani said, the vaccine still offers some protection.
“When your body receives the flu vaccine, your body starts to think, ‘OK, I’ve got to start making antibodies to help protect against the flu virus.’ So even if it’s not a perfect match, getting the flu vaccine will still give your body some protection,” she said.
Infectious disease experts recommend getting vaccinated before the flu season begins. This goes for adults, as well. It helps protect those who are vaccinated as well as babies who are too young to be vaccinated.
Flu shots are available at doctor’s offices, many pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and even a growing number of grocery stores. Many times, flu shots are covered by private and government insurance, but those without coverage can visit state health clinics or call officials at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.