Time to get your flu shot

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in recorded history – the 1918 influenza pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 500 million people – one-third of the world’s population at the time – became infected, at least 50 million people died worldwide and life expectancy in the U.S. fell by about 12 years.

Rachel Doggett, M.P.A.S., PA-C

“We’ve come a long way in management and prevention of the flu since 1918,” says Rachel Doggett, M.P.A.S., PA-C, a physician assistant in the DMU Clinic’s family medicine department.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action now against this contagious respiratory illness, she emphasizes. “It’s time for people to get the flu vaccine. After you receive the immunization, it takes about two weeks for flu-fighting antibodies to build up in your body, so you shouldn’t wait until we’re in the middle of flu season.”

The flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting an influenza vaccine each year.

While kids and older adults are at higher risk of suffering complications from the flu, it’s important for everyone eligible over six months of age to get the vaccine, Doggett says. “The vaccine decreases the risk of getting the flu, which keeps the general population healthier,” she says. “This is especially important for those with chronic medical conditions like asthma or heart disease. Getting the flu can make those conditions worse or make recovery time longer.”

Doggett says the vaccine is safe for pregnant women. Because the vaccine is derived from the virus being grown in eggs, people with severe egg allergies should talk with their provider first. Those with severe allergies to the influenza vaccine should not get the immunization. Additionally, people who suspect they may already have the flu or are ill should be evaluated by a health care provider first to discuss options. Otherwise, it’s time to make your appointment.

“Because we don’t know the strain of flu that will be most predominant in a given year until it hits, the vaccine is a simple, effective way to reduce its risk and complications,” Doggett says.

Need a flu vaccine? Need a health care provider? Get both at the DMU Clinic, 3200 Grand Ave., Des Moines. Call 515-271-1700 to make an appointment.