How NOT to Win Friends and InFLUence People

  • Clever headline isn’t it?  Wish I could take credit, however, it’s from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Seasonal Flu website.

    Have you had your flu shot this year?  I have.

    Vaccination is the best way to combat the spread of influenza “the flu” each year.  The majority of adults have antibody protection within 2 weeks after vaccination and with “the flu” not appearing in certain communities until February or March, it is not too late to get your shot for full protection.

    National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 8-14, 2008

    I received my flu shot this past Friday morning.  It was smooth sailing without causing any difficulties with my multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis.  Now, the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine I also received on Friday STILL hurts and I’ve got the big, nasty, hard lump to prove it.

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    The National MS Society references Immunizations and Multiple Sclerosis, published in 2001 by the Multiple Sclerosis Council for Clinical Practice Guidelines, in recommendation that people with MS should be vaccinated against the flu virus each year.

    The CDC urges you to take the following steps to protect yourself and others from influenza:

    Take time to get a flu vaccine.
        * CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.
        * While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season.
        * The vaccine can protect you from getting sick from these three viruses or it can make your illness milder if you get a different flu virus.
        * Getting a vaccine is very important for people at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart or lung disease, people who are immunosuppressed (even due to medications), and people 65 and older.
        * People who live with or care for those at high risk should also get a flu vaccine to protect their high-risk contact.

    Take everyday preventive actions.
        * Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
        * Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
        * Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
        * If you get the flu, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
        * Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

    Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.
        * If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu ® and Relenza ® are an important treatment option.  However, they are not a substitute for vaccination.
        * Antiviral drugs fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body.

  •     * Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. This could be especially important for people at high risk.

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        * For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).
        * Flu-like symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.

    I developed the flu a few years ago.  Really, truly, not much fun.  Fortunately I did see my PCP quickly since I suspected either strep throat or maybe the flu.  The rapid strep test came back negative, but the rapid flu test was positive for Influenza A virus.  I received a prescription for Tamiflu, apologies that it would get worse before it got better, and orders to rest, drink lots of fluids, etc. 

    I thanked myself for going in so quickly (one day after symptom onset) and for using an antiviral medication which certainly helped my experience be less grotesque.  BTW, yes, I did get my flu vaccine that year.  It was a tough year for many in my area of the country.

    So unless you are currently in a flare-up or have recently used high-dose steroids, get out there and get vaccinated.  Protect yourself and your loved ones.

    Don't get the flu.  Don't spread the flu. Get Vaccinated.

    Click here to see weekly updates regarding reports of Influenza during the 2008-2009 Flu Season.


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: November 18, 2008