Defend Yourself and Your Community

It’s Not Just About You: Immunize Against the Flu

Benjamin Schlais, MD, a family physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano, encourages his patients to get immunized against the flu because, “Prevention is the key to wellness. Immunizations are one of the easiest and most important ways we can keep ourselves and our communities healthy.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is best avoided by staying away from other sick people (if possible); washing your hands well with soap and water to rinse away germs that could infect your mouth, nose, or eyes; and getting vaccinated.

There are many good reasons to get immunized for the flu this year. Shots will be made available at ThedaCare clinics starting in September.

Healthy people typically bounce back, but not everyone does. If we get the flu and we live with infants, visit older people, or come in contact with people with compromised immunity at work or in the community, we could deliver dangerous germs straight to people who are not as equipped to fend off influenza. “Influenza can get very serious, very quickly,” said Dr. Schlais. “Whereas some of us get the sniffles and chills or need a day or two off work to rest, the very young and very old can be hospitalized and even die from a bad influenza infection.”

It helps moms and babies. Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92 percent effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu. “When a pregnant mother gets the flu shot and her body then produces antibodies to influenza, these protective antibodies are passed on to a nursing baby via the mother’s breastmilk,” Dr. Schlais said. Babies are especially in need of protection, because children are first eligible for flu vaccinations at six months of age.

You need the yearly boost. The body’s immunity to influenza declines as a person ages. A person should get vaccinated each year to boost his or her immunity, because age and certain chronic health conditions are the biggest contributors to serious influenza infections. This is true even if the formula of the immunization has not changed from one year to the next. Dr. Schlais also advises his over-65 patients to get the shot that’s specially formulated for older adults. “Higher dosing helps better stimulate the immune system in people whose immunity is naturally declining,” he said.

Go from severe to moderate. Flu vaccination may make a person’s illness milder if he or she does get sick.

Buy three, get one free. Three kinds of flu viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. This year, ThedaCare will again offer the quadrivalent (four-way) 2017-2018 flu vaccine that also protects against an additional B virus.

FluMist, administered by a squirt of attenuated (weakened) live virus into a person’s nasal passages, is not recommended for use this year. For the second year in a row, this method has been shown to be about 20 percent less effective in preventing the flu than a traditional injection. Be brave, says Dr. Schlais. “Getting immunized against the flu is the right thing to do,” he said. “When you get immunized, you are protecting yourself, and you are doing your part to limit the spread of influenza among your family, co-workers, and friends. You are defending them, too.”

Are you looking for a doctor who will give you a healthy shot in the arm? Dr. Benjamin Schlais is accepting new patients at ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano. Call his office at 715.524.2161 to schedule an appointment or call ThedaCare On Call at 920.830.6877.