The Flu Shot

So, have you heard about this swine flu thing? Sounds a little scary. Just look at that graph over there, showing the number of flu cases in Canada (see Google Flu Trends for updates). But what are you gonna do, eh?

Well, you could go and get a free flu shot. The provincial government is picking up the tab not only for the H1N1 flu shot, but also for the seasonal flu vaccine. Woot!

Maybe you think you don't need to get the flu shot. After all, you're healthy right now, right? No pounding headache, no aching muscles, no runny nose, no fever. But just because you're not sick now doesn't mean you're not going to get sick--it doesn't work that way. What are you going to do when you get sick? Go and get the flu shot then? Um, no: first, it will be too late to help you. And second, they won't even give you the flu shot when you're actually sick.

Perhaps you're counting on Tamiflu. Yup, that could help you. So, is your strategy to wait and get really sick first, then go running around to see a doctor and get a prescription? What if (say, due to a pandemic or something) they're out of Tamiflu? Are you going to order some over the Internet? Ya, good luck with that.

Even if you don't get the H1N1 swine flu, you're still at risk for the good old regular flu. "Bah!" you say, totally unafraid of it. And you're right, people aren't freaking out over the regular seasonal flu. But you should still get a flu shot for it. Why? Take a look at the graph above again. The light blue lines show cases of seasonal flu over the past few years. Notice when the cases peak? There's one peak in mid/late December. Hmm, is there anything important going on in your life around that time? Let me think...oh, yeah: final exams. Do you want to be sick during finals? Do you want to defer all your final exams until maybe January or February? Really, that's not a great idea, considering you're going to have your hands full with a fresh batch of courses. The next peak is in the middle of February. Gee, that's around midterm time. See where I'm going with this?

Here, I'll even help. Alberta Health Services has a list immunization clinics near you.

(By the way, don't come to class if you're sick with the flu.)

Why aren't you studying?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...
on

I'm not sick (yet), but I'm not too sure about taking the shot considering some of the scary side effects some people have suffered.

like this poor cheerleader

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpu51HP_FWM

By the way, I couldn't help but notice your inclusion of video games in the previous lecture, mass effect and HL2. I was wondering if you were a game real gamer yourself? If so what kind of games are you into?

Karsten Loepelmann said...
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@Anonymous: you'll have to make the decision for yourself, but at least do so knowing the facts (it's easy to be swayed by an emotional video, but how likely are you to be affected like that unfortunate woman?).

You should look at the virulence of H1N1, and balance that against the typical side effects and the insanely rare possible side effects, like Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome. If you're allergic to eggs, you should not get the flu shot (see this CDC Q&A).

As for the games, yeah, I play computer games. And no, I don't think they're bad for you (I shake my head at the psychologists who claim they are). I even wrote a Star Wars: Dark Forces FAQ.

Also, I love MAME and my Atari 2600 emulator--old school, baby!

These days, I don't have a lot of time to play games, and I find myself helping my daughter play her games. Lots of pink, lots of ponies, lots of princesses. Not a lot of guns, aliens, or blood.

I am considering getting a console, maybe a Wii. Anyone got some advice...?

Anastasia said...
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Flu shots increase the chance of getting the flu for some individuals. Just eat a bit of garlic and onion every night and you'll be as healthy as...well, as something healthy. Onions kill the flu virus and garlic strengthens the immune system. And the best part of all? No crappy side effects.

Karsten Loepelmann said...
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@Anastasia: It's true that eating certain foods can increase immune system functioning (I've heard that Dr Oz recommends sardines, papaya-carrot juice, miso soup, and elderberry juice, in addition to garlic).

Still, I prefer to get a flu shot to maximize my odds of not getting sick.

Anastasia said...
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But how do you know that a shot will maximize your odds of not getting sick?

Karsten Loepelmann said...
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@Anastasia: Glad you asked--because of the research that's been done. For example, see some research results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not to be pedantic or anything, but I do try to make the best possible decisions in my life, and for me that means going to the data.

Anonymous said...
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Only if you don't consider "abhorable breath" a crappy side effect...... I think I'd rather "risk" flu via vaccine.

Karsten Loepelmann said...
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@Anonymous: So maybe you can avoid catching a virus because people are avoiding you...?

Anastasia said...
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Exactly, make your breath so bad, no one dares come near.

In all seriousness though, I don't understand all this hype about H1N1. The symptoms look suspiciously a lot like normal flu, which, incidentally, kills more people. And yes, I know there are those who benefit from shots (most prominently the pharmaceutical companies) but the reason most need to get a shot is because their immune system is not up to par (bad nutrition/not enough exercise/etc). A healthier lifestyle will just as effectively maximize your odds of not getting sick.

I am currently eagerly waiting to see which new shot-needing strain we'll have this year. I'm putting my money on K9 Flu.

Karsten Loepelmann said...
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Don't worry about "scary side effects" of the flu shot, like the "poor cheerleader." No, she didn't pull a hoax, but she wasn't experiencing true side effects either--unless you count psychogenic disease as a side effect (you shouldn't).

Here's an update on her story from ABC News. Now you have one less thing to worry about!

Karsten A. Loepelmann said...
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Couldn't resist adding this clip from Penn and Teller. Get it now?

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