The flu season has begun and the first victim in my family was my mother. This past Sunday as I was finishing up my six miles (I’m training for the love run half marathon), my mother called crying about her flu-like symptoms. After nursing her back to health I had to ask, “Mom did you get the flu shot?”Her response was that she didn’t believe in the shot which is a normal response for the baby boomer generation, but can you imagine my shock when my business partner Nneka Kirkland also said NO! Her argument was that it’s so many flu strains the vaccine is useless. She may have a point so I did some research….
So I start with the best source the Center for Disease Control and the first quote I see is
“The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.”
And since I have been receiving email updates from the CDC for several years now I take their recommendations very seriously. But what exactly is the flu vaccine anyway? The flu vaccine contains a weakened form of the virus that will not cause flu illness. The vaccine may contain up to four different strains and elicits an immune response by building up antibodies that will attack the virus once you are exposed. Researchers have been tracking the flu for many decades and can predict which flu strain will be in season, they use the data collected from the flu weekly.
Further research revealed that my business partner was correct! The flu antigens can mutate during the course of a flu season, this mutation is known as an antigenic drift. The mutated strain can spread to others and ultimately become a pandemic causing researchers to scramble and make another vaccine specific to the new mutated form. We seen this happen in 2009 with the swine flu, that was a scary time for me because my son was only a year old and I stayed in the house for almost two weeks.
Being a scientist, science instructor and a science girl, I have to recommend the flu vaccine because you can prevent the spread of this sometimes lethal virus. Although the strains may mutate, there is still four known strains that you can protect yourself from. So if you are scared of needles, you can always choose the nasal form.