I should get the flu vaccine

Beside having enough stress-free time, exercise and sleep, there is a vaccine.

“It’s flu season again, get vaccinated,” by Poon Chian Hui. The Straits Times, 8 Jan 2012.

“Influenza is one of the oldest infectious diseases around, estimated to be centuries old. It is spread mainly via air droplets or close contact with an infected person.

The virus can also remain on surfaces for a period of time, so someone in contact with such a surface may also get sick.

The virus remains dangerous as it can rapidly mutate to beat the competition. Around the world, in addition to the three strains – H1N1, H3N2 and B – some may also have the rare but mild Type C virus. The competition leads to different strains dominating at different times of the year.

[Associate Professor Leo Yee Sin, head of the Communicable Disease Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital,] Prof Leo said: ‘We evolve, but it evolves too. Eliminating flu would be quite a tussle. We just have to learn to handle and live with it.’

The best way is through vaccinations, say doctors.

But vaccine take-up rates in Singapore are ‘pathetic’, said Dr Leong. [Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Raffles Hospital.]

Less than 15 per cent of the population are vaccinated, said Prof Leo.

Said Dr Leong: ‘Many mistake the flu for the common cold – it’s just cough and runny nose, why do I need an injection?’

But the flu hits the body much harder, with fever lasting three to four days, muscle aches and tiredness. The person is also usually sick for a week. In contrast, one can recover from a cold in two days.

The vaccine offers about 70 per cent protection against all three current strains of flu, and usually lasts for a year.

However, the vaccine is unsuitable for those who are allergic to eggs. Most neighbourhood clinics offer the jab at a cost of $20 to $30.

See also HPB’s “Influenza” which says, “The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.”

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