EMA Care Blog

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The Flu Season 2021

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During the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have been worried about the upcoming Flu season. But to everyone’s surprise, the numbers in the southern hemisphere were the lowest they have been in a long time. “Never in my 40-year career have we ever seen rates ... so low,” says Greg Poland, an influenza expert at the Mayo Clinic. This is probably due to social distancing all over the world. 

Over the past few months, many countries have closed their bars, restaurants, and social events. This has led to fewer people socializing with one another and thus lowering the infection rates of the flu. 

Israel is predicting that it will have a shortage of flu vaccines this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. People have been more aware of the disease and they are worried about getting the flu vaccine and the Coronavirus, therefore, they are predicting that more people will get the flu shot. Due to this prediction, Israel is prioritizing the flu vaccines and   have started vaccinating the elderly people from the age of 75 and older. 

Myths about the Flu Vaccine 

There are still many people who aren’t sure about getting the vaccine. Here are 4 common myths (or misconceptions) and facts about the flu shot:

  1. “It might not work” – some people get the flu shot but still get the flu, and they claim that the vaccine didn't help them at all. This is a common misconception because the flu shot gives people antibodies to protect you from the flu. If you get the flu afterward, your body has the antibodies that will help your body fight the disease faster and better.  The average illness for the people who get sick after getting a flu shot is a few days long and with mild symptoms (as opposed to up to 2 weeks with flu, and severe symptoms.)  Also, consider that flu symptoms take 1-4 days to appear after being exposed to it.  People who get sick within a day of the flu shot were exposed before they were vaccinated!  

2. “I’m healthy, I don’t need the shot” – many people claim that they have never had the flu and therefore they are safe. They may not have gotten the flu shot last year and were fine. This year is different however due to the Coronavirus as getting the flu and the Coronavirus – can be extremely dangerous. Therefore, we recommend that you get a vaccine. 

 

3. "I got the flu vaccine last year" – there is a false notion that if you get the flu shot, then you don't need other flu shots, like other types of vaccines for measles, tetanus, etc. This is incorrect because unlike most vaccine-preventable contagious illnesses the flu virus is continually mutating, so the vaccine must be updated every year for both hemispheres.  The flu vaccine from last year won't be effective for the flu this year. Sometimes flu strains can re-emerge, such as H1N1 (swine flu) that caused a major pandemic in 2009, which is why this virulent strain remains in flu shots – to continually boost people's immunity.  Once you have had the flu, you are naturally immune to that particular flu strain only, but not to others.

4. “There are drugs to treat the flu”- Although there are antiviral medications that can ease symptoms and speed recovery, they aren't the first line of defense, according to the CDC.  These drugs are only effective if started within 24 hours of symptoms starting. We have seen students start taking medicine from home before even getting a diagnosis, and oftentimes they were taking the antiviral medication for common colds and not the flu!  Getting immunized is the best way to protect yourself against the virus.

5. “I am very careful around sick people” - People are often contagious before they get symptoms, so the flu spreads even when people are being careful.  Short of living in a bubble, you will not be able to protect yourself from people who are not sick yet!  Of course, EMA Care recommends being careful around sick people (see guidelines below), but that is not enough to prevent you from catching the flu.

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Guidance for students living in dorms

Students who are living in dorms usually catch illnesses from their roommates or fellow students because they are living in smaller, more crowded spaces. Preventing the spread of illness for anyone includes:

  • Always wash your hands after being near a sick person, and before and after eating.
  • Use precautions with exposure to saliva from sick people.  This includes avoiding drinking from the same cup, eating with common utensils, and sharing lip balm.
  • Flu is spread through airborne droplets, which are often invisible to the naked eye.  These are spread for up to 6 feet (2 meters) through talking, singing, coughing, sneezing, and even breathing.  So, keep your distance from people with the flu.
  • Prevent your friends from getting sick.  If you are sick – sneeze and cough into your sleeve, not into the air. 
  • If you're sick – wash your hands often.
  • Keep common areas clean.  This includes door handles, sink faucets, soap dispensers (that are pumped with unclean hands), bathrooms, and kitchen surfaces.
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