Avoiding the Flu

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It’s flu season again–one more reason for Google to make a new techno-gadget. Their Flu Trends tracking system can estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to Google, making it one of the fastest indicators of who’s blue with the flu.

The numbers are on the rise now, and it’s no coincidence that I suddenly find myself bombarded at the grocery store by nice, white-jacketed people eager to poke a needle into my arm. Flu season brings flu vaccinations, and people are faced again with the choice to shoot up or brave the maelstrom of infectious disease. Here’s a little guide to help you make the decision that suits you best.

The CDC advises a flu vaccination shot for “anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu,” but particularly for children, pregnant women, people older than 50, and health care professionals or those living in nursing homes. Interestingly, nearly 60 percent of health workers don’t get the shot, reports USA Today. One nurse explained that she avoids it because the only time she got sick with the flu was when she got vaccinated. Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University hopes to stifle stories like this one, which he says have created a wide-spread myth about the transmittance of the flu through the vaccine.

Many in the world of alternative health still remain wary about the shot. Natural Solutions reported in 2006 that the vaccination has myriad antibiotics and additives, such as formaldehyde, gelatin, and thimerosal, an organic form of mercury. They recommend alternative methods of preventing the flu, including their 5 homeopathic remedies, outlined in an online-exclusive accompanying their article “Sidestep the Sniffles.” Yoga Journal also offers a few suggestions, ranging from bolstering your immunity with the Ayurvedic herbs ashwaganda and turmeric, or meditating to reduce stress.

The societal upshot to getting immunized is that you prevent yourself from being a transmitter. Unvaccinated people, even those who never come down with the flu, may spread the disease to others. For this reason, Schaffner told USA Today that it is a professional responsibility for health care workers to get the shot. If your workplace or child’s school has not made it mandatory to get vaccinated, however, the decision is yours to make.

Image by Heliøs, licensed under Creative Commons.

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