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We are all “faces” of influenza

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Myths and facts about influenza

There are a number of misunderstandings about the flu and its vaccination. Because it’s important for everyone to be armed with the right information, here is a list of the most common myths and facts about influenza.

Myth

Influenza is not serious. It is like any cold and cannot be prevented.

Fact

Influenza is a very serious disease. It is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S., influenza and related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

Myth

If you do not have health insurance, you cannot afford to get a flu vaccination.

Fact

There are various state health programs that provide or extend health coverage to low-income and uninsured populations and will administer flu vaccinations free to those who are eligible. For more information, please visit es.vaccines.gov. Vaccines for Children is a national program that provides free or low-cost vaccinations for some uninsured and underinsured families. Talk to your health care provider, pharmacist, or nurse to find out whether you are eligible for this or other government programs such as Medicaid.

Myth

You can get influenza from a flu shot.

Fact

It is impossible to get influenza from the flu shot because it does not contain the live virus. Side effects may occur in some people, such as mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, or a low-grade fever.

Myth

There’s only one type of vaccine available to help protect against the influenza virus.

Fact

Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to prevent the flu. Vaccine options are available for all age groups. Talk to your health care provider to find out more about the vaccine option that’s right for you and your family.

Myth

You missed the chance to get yourself and your family vaccinated in the fall, so now you have to wait until next year.

Fact

Immunization to prevent influenza can begin as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer or early fall. However, for those who can’t get vaccinated early in the influenza season, such as children who are not yet 6 months of age or any others who missed their annual shot, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated. This is because often influenza activity doesn’t peak until winter or early spring. It only takes about two weeks for the vaccine to help protect against the virus.

Myth

The flu changes every year, so getting a flu shot will not protect you from getting sick.

Fact

Influenza is unpredictable and viruses do change throughout the year, but, that is why the influenza vaccine changes each year as well.

Remember, getting vaccinated annually is the best way to help protect yourself, your family and your community against influenza. For more information about influenza vaccination, visit rostrosdelagripe.org. 

Luis Rodriguez, M.D., is Chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the New York University School of Medicine. 

This guest contribution to LPM is made on behalf of the American Lung Association’s Rostros de la gripe. For more information about the influenza vaccination and the many “faces” of influenza, visit rostrosdelagripe.org

 

Maria Canals Barrera, courtesy of Rostros de la Gripe Campaign

Cuban American actress, Maria Canals Barrera, was known for taking care of her on-screen family when she portrayed the proud Latina mother on the Disney Channel TV series, Wizards of Waverly Place.

Her role as a proud Latina didn’t stop there. Maria embraces her roots and is a strong supporter of Latin American arts and shares her heritage with her children. In addition, she knows that spreading the word about the seriousness of influenza, and the importance of annual vaccination, will help keep Hispanic communities healthy and strong.

Maria has joined the “Faces of Influenza” campaign to encourage Hispanics six months of age and older to get vaccinated and help protect themselves against the flu, as vaccination rates in this population are alarmingly low, leaving far too many unprotected. She also wants other parents to know that children 6 months through 8 years of age receiving a flu shot for the first time need two doses approximately one month apart for optimal protection.

When it comes to her everyday life, Maria’s number one priority is protecting the health and safety of her two daughters. “As a parent, there are a lot of things we can’t control, but getting flu shots for me and my girls was an easy step to help keep our family, and our community, healthy this influenza season,” said Maria.

 Vaccination is important for everyone in the family, especially for people with a higher risk of developing complications from influenza, such as those with certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and others. In addition, it’s also important for those who come into close contact with high-risk groups and are more likely to spread the virus to vulnerable populations, such as caregivers and family members.

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