What’s your story? Be a part of the ‘Faces of Flu Prevention’ campaign

posted August 19th, 2013

The best way to prevent getting, and spreading, influenza is to get vaccinated against the flu. Protecting our patients, their loved ones and each other by getting the flu vaccine annually demonstrates a unified commitment to keeping our community healthy and safe.

This year begins a new evolution of our annual flu vaccination campaign. “The Faces of Flu Prevention” campaign will highlight stories of Duke team members, with each person sharing why she or he gets the flu vaccine.

Do you have a personal story to share with the community at large about getting the flu shot to protect those you care for or yourself? If so, send your story to bill.stagg@duke.edu by Aug. 19. Nine Duke team members will be selected to be professionally photographed and will have their stories told online and in print.

If you have questions about flu vaccination, ask your manager, or send an email to: stoptheflu@duke.edu

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Debunking the myths about influenza vaccinations

With the move toward mandatory vaccination of all healthcare workers who work in Duke University Health System (DUHS) facilities, Cameron Wolfe, M.D., from Duke's Division of Infectious Diseases, debunks some common myths about the flu. If you have additional questions, send an email to: stoptheflu@duke.edu.

See the DUHS Influenza Resource Guide at https://intranet.dm.duke.edu/influenza/SitePages/Home.aspx

Q: Can someone get the flu by getting the flu shot?
A: The flu injection cannot transmit the flu or make you more susceptible to getting the flu. It contains no flu virus.

Q. Why do some people say they always get sick after getting the flu shot?
A. This may be true, but for a very small number of people. The vaccine is quite good at building your immunity, so some people with a robust immune system will respond more vigorously to the vaccine building their immunity, but they might feel a little worse while that occurs. A sore shoulder, low-grade temperatures, and mild aches are possible for about 5 to 10 percent of the adult population. Remember, it’s building your immunity, so it’s a protective response. The vaccine will not give you the flu.

Q: Why the push to vaccinate our entire workforce?
A: Recent data has suggested hospitals in the U.S. can also spread flu, and we need to find better ways to prevent flu from entering our working community. Healthcare workers are exposed to higher rates of flu, but, more important, if our patients get the flu while under our care, they can become critically ill. Some die each year as a result. Every effort to stop the flu is important and our joint responsibility. This includes vaccination, hand washing, staying at home if you become sick and sometimes even restricting hospital visitors or even wearing masks.

Q: Can the flu shot cause Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)?
Fortunately this condition, which occurs naturally every year in the U.S., is extremely rare -- perhaps one case per 100,000 per year. If you have had this illness before, you should discuss the flu vaccination with your health care provider. Recent studies of influenza vaccination have shown the risk of GBS to be minimal.

Q: Can I get the flu shot if I have an egg-allergy?
A: Actually, yes. In the past, a true egg-allergy meant people could not safely receive the vaccine. We now have an egg-free vaccine available for people with concerns. It is manufactured in an alternative way, yet equally safe and effective. If you have an egg-allergy, you should discuss this new vaccine, “Flublok,” with your healthcare provider.

Q: If I get vaccinated, won’t that prevent me getting natural immunity?
A: This is true. Sadly, however, the only way to get natural immunity to influenza, which changes every year, is to either catch the flu and get sick from it or to be vaccinated. By having the flu, you put yourself and others at risk. The immunity generated from the vaccine is more protective than from the virus itself, because it protects you from multiple strains.

Q: Why are you vaccinating people now, when flu season doesn’t start until the winter?
A: Because the vaccine takes at least a couple of weeks to have its full benefit, it is important to get the vaccine before influenza starts to circulate.

Q: If I take the vaccine now, will I still be protected by the end of the season?
A: Yes. It was originally thought that waiting until the last minute was better, but the current flu vaccines have protection throughout the entire season with minimal waning.

Q: Why do healthy people need to get the flu shot?
A: In short, to protect those who are not as fortunate. It is true that the people at greatest risk for influenza are those who have chronic illness, the elderly, those who are pregnant or the very young. But, even if you are well, you may be in contact with others who are at greater risk than you. Some people can spread influenza a day before they fall sick.