Have you ever wondered about the Flu shot, or why you should even get it, and why every year???
SO first…What is Influenza ?
The Influenza virus, or better known as the FLU virus, is a contagious Virus that can cause respiratory illness. There are over 100 subtypes of the influenza virus, and the ones that circulate yearly mutate, or change.
The flu’s genetic code allows for this mutation to occur rapidly and often because it is not a perfect system for duplicating itself…which is actually the problem. The viruses’ replication system creates a defective product or virus. The virus enters a person’s body through the air, breathed in, or from touching surfaces, then touching your face, nose, eyes.
It then infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. To make it worse, the virus can survive without being on a human, for hours. Once it gains access to a person, it then circulates into a person’s blood stream, enters a person’s cell, and takes over a cell. Then it multiplies itself, or clones itself within the cell, then causes the cell to basically explode, releasing more of itself into the circulation, to do the same to more cells, thus making you “sick”.
A person may infected, and contagious, yet show no symptoms, a day before they even “feel sick”. Even after they are “better” they still can infect others up to 2 weeks after.
To share a little immunology and science…The flu virus is made of RNA, and this RNA is copied within a persons cells, sometimes the RNA is NOT copied exactly and this is what cause the various and mutated types of different “FLU” types.
First a vaccine, usually contains some inactivated “particles”, that make up the virus so that our bodies can recognize the flu virus. These particles are called antigens. So normally our body’s immune system uses these antigens and develops antibodies against them, to stop the spread of a virus. But as the Virus changes and mutates, the body’s immune system may not recognize these newly mutated viruses, leading to infection. Now take into account that I mentioned earlier that there are over 100 different types of influenza viruses. These are always changing, and also two viruses can get together to form their own new strains. There are various type of Influenza, which are A, B, C, and D.
What are Flu Symptoms:
Flu symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, coughing sneezing, runny nose, and fatigue. Symptoms can be mild, but also can be to the extreme of hospitalization.
Why is the FLU bad?
The influenza virus has been around for a long time, and this has given time for the virus to mutate. So how bad is the Flu, and why do we need a vaccine.
Well here’s a grave statistic of what it can do without a vaccine, and a little history:
In 1918, before any type of vaccine existed, 50 million people died world wide…that is approximately 1/3 of the world’s population at that time.
In 1933, Scientists isolated influenza A viruses, and learned that it was not a bacteria, where antibiotics, which were discovered in 1928…which was penicillin at the time, would not work.
In 1936, The influenza B virus was isolated, and, separately, it was discovered that the flu virus can be grown in hen's eggs.
In 1942: A two-component vaccine was produced that offers protection against both influenza A and B viruses.
Consider this to be the predecessor to the ones of today that contain 3 or 4 inactivated virus.
In 1945: The first flu vaccine was licensed for civilian use in the U.S.
Since then, In the United States there were 2 pandemics, one in 1957 killing more than 1 million people nationwide.
And in 1968 killing 100,000 people in the U.S., mostly in people aged 65 and older.
It was learned as early as 1947 that flu viruses change from year to year and the vaccine will need to be adjusted annually to be effective.
The flu is no joke. If no vaccine existed to curb the virus, it could possibly continue to kill people to those extremes.
So Why do we get the Flu shot?
The flu shot contains inactivated viruses that scientists, as in the WHO, or world health organization, learn from studying throughout the year, and from previous years, which are the most probable versions of the virus to be circulating for the upcoming Flu season. This is where the vaccine is formulated. Scientists can then predict from this studying, which virus strains will be the dominating strains, or more to cause you to become “really sick”. The vaccine usually contains 3 to 4 types of inactivated virus strains in one, also known as TriValent or Quadrivalent. These give your body the ability to create antibodies to the virus before you get infected. Remember, there maybe 96 other subtypes out there, that might not be as powerful and strong, but can still make you have “THE FLU”.
Remember, the virus can still mutate or change during this time.
That’s why the vaccine may not prevent the flu entirely, however, it may make less infection, less symptoms; and a shorter duration as your body recognizes some virus antigens, due to the antibodies produced from the vaccine. It can reduce your risk of getting the FLU by approx. 50%.
You cannot get the Flu from the flu shot, but you can get an immune response that can cause you to feel fatigued and maybe a little bit achy. The reason you cannot get the flu from the shot is because the vaccine contains an inactivated version of the virus, unlike if you breath in or touch a surface with an actual LIVE AND ACTIVATED VIRUS.
Have you ever heard or HERD immunity?
This is where if a majority of people get the influenza vaccine, they create the ability to fight the virus, decreasing its spread, which in turn protects those who cannot get the vaccine.
If you can get the vaccine, get it, but there are some people that should not get it…
People who SHOULD NOT get a flu shot include:
Children younger than 6 months of age
People with allergies to any ingredient in a flu vaccine, such as eggs. However, talk to your care provider.
Previous reaction to the influenza vaccine.
Those with history of Guillain-Barre
There is also a nasal spray flu vaccine, but also talk to you doctor about this as it is approved for people 2 years old to 49 years of age, including people with egg allergies. The nasal spray vaccine is also not recommended for some groups, so talk to your doctor.
Vaccines generally become available in the fall.
SO who SHOULD receive the FLU SHOT?
THE CDC recommends:
Health care personnel;
ESPECIALLY, health care personnel who are Caregivers of children under 5 years, adults aged 50 years and older, and people with medical conditions.
To all you Healthcare providers, you don’t want to take highly contagious and LIVE strain of the FLU virus home with you.
Who else should receive the vaccine, Children aged 6 months through 4 years
People aged 50 years and older;
Extremely obese people.
People with chronic pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular disease, Blood diseases or disorders, Liver disease, Kidney disease, and Diabetes.
People who are immunosuppressed;
People who are residents of long-term care facilities;
Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season and people up to two weeks after delivery;
American Indian or Alaska Native persons;
So with all that said…How do you prevent the Flu, or prevent “catching” the flu? First, as always, by washing your hands.
Stay away from people who are sick, if possible.
And Get the Flu vaccine. Yearly.
If you want a fun way to learn the basics about the flu shot, and Handwashing through music and lyrics…
Be sure to listen to my “THE FLU SHOT” song, and my “WASH YOUR HANDS!” song,
which are on all major music streaming platforms, as well as a lyric videos on Youtube.
If possible, Get your FLU SHOT!
Here's the YOUTUBE video about the FLU & The Flu Shot...