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Patient receiving flu shot from doctor

Wisconsin has four beautiful seasons – winter, fall, spring and summer. But we also experience a fifth season that’s silent but deadly.

Flu season typically hits as early as October and can last as late until May. Influenza is a serious disease that can affect people of all ages and can result in death.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, there were a little over 20,000 reported cases of the flu in 2017 – a record for the state.

This mild to severe contagious disease attacks the respiratory system. It can develop suddenly. It is spread through tiny droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking by those who have the flu.

Unfortunately, as the flu season comes to fruition, so do many flu myths and misconceptions. Let’s dispel them.

MYTH #1: The flu vaccine will give me the flu.

Fact: The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu. Why? Because the virus in the vaccine is not active. Yes, you may experience side effects like swelling, soreness and redness where the needle was inserted, but that’s because the body is building immunity to the virus.

MYTH #2: Pregnant women should not get the flu vaccine.

Fact: There are many benefits to receiving the flu shot while pregnant. These include reducing the risk of fetal birth defects from fever caused by the flu and the risk of becoming hospitalized. Another benefit of the flu vaccine is that not only can it protect pregnant women, its antibodies can protect babies through placenta and breast milk from breast-feeding.

MYTH #3: I’m healthy, I don’t need to get vaccinated.

Fact: Think again. When the flu attacks the immune system without any antibodies to fight the flu, it’s defenseless. This causes healthy cells to become infected, spreading the flu throughout the body.

MYTH #4: The flu shot isn’t necessary every year.

Fact: Wrong. The flu shot is necessary every year because the body’s response to vaccination can decline over time. Also, the flu strain can change from year to year, meaning the formulation for the flu vaccine can be different from the prior year.

MYTH #5: Influenza isn’t that serious of a disease.

Fact: In 1918, influenza killed almost 500 million people worldwide. So yeah, it’s a big deal. Getting a flu shot can be especially beneficial for children. A 2017 study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the flu vaccine reduced the risk of flu-associated death by more than 60 percent among healthy children.

Published: Monday, October 14, 2019