Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 22, 2014

End shot hysteria

Indiana health officials report 11 influenza-related deaths already this flu season, up from three just two weeks ago.

The Centers for Disease Control reports flu-like illnesses as “widespread” across Indiana, prompting some hospitals to limit visitations to spouses and domestic partners, parents and legal guardians, grandparents and spiritual counselors.

“The 25-to-64 year old age group is specifically being harder hit,” Shawn Richards, respiratory epidemiologist with the State Health Department, told Indiana Public Media. She said this is because the H1N1 strain, which caused the 2009 flu pandemic, is dominant so far this year.

And yet, in spite of an overwhelming endorsement from medical experts, some folks continue to be skeptical about the flu vaccine.

Part of the concern about vaccinations grows out of a federal program in 1976. Roughly 40 million people got shots, and about 400 developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a form of paralysis. Some died.

Scientists were never able to figure out what caused those 400 cases, but some say it might have had no connection to the shots. About 140 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States every week.

In any case, medical experts argue that not taking the vaccine is a lot more dangerous than taking it.

Some point out that for the vast majority of patients, the flu is no big deal. Its victims will feel lousy for a few days, and then they’ll be back at work or in school, good as new.

Why, then, should people take the risk of getting the shots?

The answer, the experts say, is that in a very few cases, the flu can be a very big deal. It can be deadly. Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans every year.

And the only way to protect yourself from becoming one of those victims is to take the vaccine.

Thus, the advice from the experts is straightforward: Get a vaccination.

What will happen if people ignore that advice? Medical experts say the answer is simple: A lot more people will die.

If you want to be protected, get the shot.

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