EDITORIAL: Be a good neighbor and get your flu shot

SHARE EDITORIAL: Be a good neighbor and get your flu shot

A Fluzone influenza vaccine is shown at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy in San Francisco. | Jeff Chiu/AP photo

Do those around you a favor. Get a flu shot.

The flu season is sweeping through Chicago, and it’s more perilous than suffering through a fever or coughing fits. This one is killing lots of people.


Flu seasons vary in severity, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated flu-related deaths ranged nationwide from 12,000 in 2011-2012 up to 56,000 in 2012-2013. The CDC says the flu season is striking earlier than usual this year, and with many states reporting widespread infection, it is one of the worst in recent years.

Already a 10-year-old Barrington boy has died of the flu on New Year’s Eve. As of Wednesday, some Chicago area hospitals were on bypass, meaning they can’t accept any more flu patients.

If you haven’t yet gotten a flu shot, there is still time to do so. It will take effect in one to two weeks, which is before the end of the flu season. Although this year’s flu shots appeared to be only about 10 percent effective in the Australian flu season, people who catch the flu after getting a shot generally don’t get as sick as people who don’t get a shot at all. The CDC recommends everyone older than six months get a shot.

Some people say they’d rather risk getting the flu than get a shot. But what kind of neighbor is that? The shot not only guards you from the influenza virus, but also reduces the chances of the virus spreading to others. Let’s consider the welfare of others, particularly people who are especially at risk or who aren’t able to get a shot because they are too young or are allergic to the serum. So-called “herd immunity,” meaning lots of people are vaccinated, can prevent the flu from sweeping through a community even if the vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective.

When it comes to getting seasonal flu shots, Illinois has lots of room for improvement. According to the CDC, Illinois has the ninth-lowest vaccination rate among the 50 states. Besides getting a shot, the CDC recommends avoiding sick people, avoiding people if you are sick until symptoms have disappeared for 24 hours, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, washing your hands frequently and cleaning all surfaces that might be contaminated.

We can’t eliminate the flu season. But if we all get flu shots, we can keep it from hitting with full force.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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