Let’s just stop and think about that number. Eight Nevada families have lost a child — to something that can be prevented by a vaccine. Eight families completely devastated.
Across the U.S. over the same time period, there were 140 pediatric deaths, with more than 20,000 children under the age of five hospitalized because of flu complications. The age group with the highest rate of hospitalization for the flu are children under the age of one.
It’s no secret that kids are little germ carriers. They forget or don’t know to cover their coughs and sneezes. They don’t wash their hands as much as they should or for as long as they should (who really does?). And if they’re like my kids, they try to lie about washing their hands all together. You put all these bad habits into an enclosed environment with a lot of kids at a school or daycare, and the flu can spread like wildfire.
So what is the flu? Don’t confuse it with the stomach flu – technically there is no such thing as a “stomach flu.” The flu is a respiratory illness, which means it affects organs like the lungs.
You or your child might have the flu if you have:
• A 100ºF or higher fever
• A cough and/or sore throat
• A runny or stuffy nose
• Headaches and/or body aches
• Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
I hear so many adults saying they don’t “believe” in the flu shot. It’s not a religion. It’s a health technology that is proven to reduce transmission of an often serious virus. The flu vaccine can’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it does offer your best chance to avoid the flu. It can prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths from the flu virus, and it can lessen your symptoms if you do get sick. Flu vaccines are made from dead flu virus and are a safe way to keep your children — and other children — healthy.
As a healthy adult, when you get a flu vaccine, you’re protecting more than just yourself. You’re helping to limit the spread of disease to the most fragile members of our communities. Infants, young children and senior citizens are particularly susceptible to complications or even death from the flu virus. Children are two to three times more likely to get the flu. People suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma or diabetes are more likely to be greatly affected by the flu than the average “healthy” person. Even if you don’t show any symptoms, you still risk passing on the virus to these vulnerable populations every time you step out of your house and into our community.
My daughter and I both have asthma, and we make sure our entire family gets the flu vaccine every year, knowing that contracting the flu could be even more dangerous for us.
Protect your children each year by getting them vaccinated. And protect babies in the community who are too young for vaccines by getting one yourself. You just might save an innocent life.
Remember, your immunity from the vaccine gets weaker over time. Flu viruses are always changing. Because flu vaccines are created to protect against the strains that are most prevalent each year, it is important to get an annual flu vaccine. If you’re concerned about the vaccine being effective, the CDC recently announced that this year’s vaccine will be better than last year’s vaccine.
The only sure way to protect yourself — and others — is to get a vaccination. I challenge you today to do your part in helping Nevada achieve zero pediatric deaths this flu season.