Flu Season is almost upon us again, and although we’ve come a long way from the years when these types of illnesses could wipe out whole cities, the flu is still deadly serious. The CDC has estimated that between the 1976 and 2007 flu seasons, deaths attributed to flu ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people in the US. For most people in the first world, the flu is just a difficult week or two; for many, it’s literally deadly. Worldwide, according to CDC estimates, flu affects approximately one billion people per year: three to five million will be  severely affected and between 250,000 to 500,000 will die.

The flu should not be taken lightly. Flu symptoms typically include sudden high fever, chills, sore throat, cough, headache, loss of appetite and fatigue. There also might be nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially in children. It takes a week to ten days for most people to recover, but those with other medical conditions face an even greater risk of severe complications.

But wait…it gets worse. Although you might not be experiencing any symptoms yet, if you’ve been exposed to the flu and not vaccinated, you can still spread it to your coworkers, friends and family before you actually get sick. You’re also contagious for up to seven days after recovering (and sometimes even longer in children or people with weakened immune systems).

Protect Yourself and Your Family

The flu is caused by direct or indirect exposure to the virus. There are several ways that you can protect yourself against the flu:

  • Frequent hand washing;
  • Covering your face before sneezing or coughing;
  • Avoiding touching your face; and
  • Keeping common surfaces like counters and door knobs clean and disinfected.

But the best way that you can protect yourself and everyone else from the flu? Make sure that you and all the members of your family get your flu shots every year. You need to do it every year for two reasons: first, your body’s immune response from vaccination diminishes within a year; second, the virus is tricky. Every year by the World Health Organization to identify the vaccine with the greatest probability of a match for this year’s strain.

Community Immunity

As moms, it’s our job to ensure that our family is kept safe and healthy–especially from preventable and manageable illnesses like the flu. The best way we can protect our family is to ensure that they’re vaccinated. In addition to the obvious individual benefits, the more people that are vaccinated, the more people are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—including infants under six months of age or those who are immunocompromised—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained (aka “community immunity”).

Now’s a Good Time for a Jab (Seriously…)

The Health Canada and the CDC and  both recommend getting your seasonal flu vaccine just as the season starts in October. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider, the vaccine is widely available and you may be able to get it at your local pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and even at your school or workplace.

In Canada, type “Flu Shot” and your province into Google or Yahoo to find out where to get yours. In the United States, find out where vaccines are available in your area using the Healthmap Vaccine Locater.

Getting the flu shot might be a pain in the arm…but it may also save you, your family and your community from a very preventable disease.