Millar and Sands: Throw out the wives’ tales & get vaccinated
Every year the flu season rears its ugly head, and every year health care professionals find themselves trying to dispel the myths about the flu vaccination.
However, this flu season is predicted to be particularly bad. Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands and Family Medicine Practitioner Dr. Mucumba Millar said its especially important for Bahamians to throw those “wives’ tales” out of the window and get vaccinated.
“There are some persons who have some trepidation about getting the flu [influenza] vaccine and some people who have trepidation about getting vaccines on the whole,” Dr. Millar said. “That’s mostly from social media and internet personalities who have no scientific or medical background.
“There is no evidence to show that vaccines aren’t safe.”
Despite this, in the age of social media it can be difficult to separate the truth of the myths. As such, misconceptions persist.
Some people simply don’t think they need to be vaccinated, as they don’t consider the flu to be dangerous enough to take the extra precaution. Others believe that the vaccination will cause them to get the flu or some other infection.
Dr. Millar said research proves the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any possible negative effects.
“Several 2017 studies have found that vaccinations reduce death, intensive care unit admissions, ICU length of stay and overall hospitalization of persons who were hospitalized for the flu and persons who had the flu vaccine had a 60 percent less chance of being admitted to the ICU or becoming so sick that they had to be hospitalized in intensive care,” he said.
Dr. Sands also stressed the importance of separating the truth from the myths.
“And so, understanding that some people, even healthy people, if they contract influenza, will get sick and go to the hospital and some that get sick and go to the hospital will die,” Sands said.
“That is the case all over the world. Between 250,000 and a half a million people will die from influenza this year. Last year in the United States 80,000 people died from influenza, so far in The Bahamas at least one person has died. This is not a game. This is serious business and so what can you do? Read up about it, throw away all of the old wives’ tale that you’ve heard. You don’t get the flu from getting wet in the rain, you don’t get the flu from getting your mold wet. You get the flu from a viral infection. How do you prevent it? Get vaccinated.”
He added: “The first thing is there is no need to panic,” Dr. Sands said. “While we expect that this is going to be a bad flu season, it is important to understand that Bahamians ought to get away from the old wives’ tales and go get vaccinated.”
There are multiple strains of influenza. One of them is H1N1, known as the swine flu. Sands said there are three confirmed cases of swine flu.
Dr. Millar said he has yet to come across any cases of the swine flu, but encouraged residents to protect themselves.
“I encourage my patients to get the flu shot because the flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick,” he said.
“Millions of people present to a physician with flu illnesses every year. The flu vaccine prevents millions of people from getting influenza illnesses.”
He encouraged anyone with flu-like symptoms to see their doctor.
“From the early stage, you get a feeling of malaise, that jut means that you’re not feeling right, you’re feeling tired and then that develops into some aches and pains and general unwellness,” he said describing some of the early signs of the flu.
“That progresses into upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, headache, cough, associated chest pain, fatigue, decreased appetite.”
The reported number of flu cases ranges from 200 to 650 annually.
Unlike a common cold, the flu is more serious and can lead to death if untreated in susceptible individuals, including young children; the elderly; and people with compromised immune systems such as those with diabetes, anyone taking steroids and those who are afflicted with cancer or who are HIV-infected.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “during past seasons, approximately 80 percent of flu-associated deaths in children have occurred in children who were not vaccinated. Based on available data, this remains true for the 2017-2018 season, as well.”
In 2013,19,201 influenza vaccines were given, compared to 16,500 in 2014; 17,978, in 2015; and 8,862 in 2016.
There are no numbers provided for vaccines given last year.