‘Tis the season…to get your flu jab. At Bank Partners, we encourage all our staff to take advantage of the flu vaccine in order to protect both themselves and patients. It’s also the time of year where myths about flu can rear their head, so we’ve put together a list of the most widely-heard flu fibs and the truth behind them. Feel free to share with patients, colleagues and friends who might throw objections in the way of getting themselves vaccinated!
Myth: ‘My chances of getting flu aren’t that high’
Truth: It has been estimated that up to one in four healthcare workers may become infected with influenza during a mild flu season – a much higher incidence than expected in the general population. Even if you’ve already had flu this year, you should get vaccinated as there are many strains of the virus in one season.
Myth: ‘If I don’t get the flu jab, it won’t really make a difference’
Truth: There are cases of flu outbreaks in hospitals and many other care settings where the spread of infection was exacerbated by healthcare workers passing it to patients. In one such outbreak, 118 staff and 49 patients were infected. Another resulted in six infections among neonates and one death. You can make a difference – get the jab.
Myth: ‘I eat healthily and exercise, so I don’t need to be vaccinated’
Truth: Whilst eating lots of fruit and veg, as well as watching your weight, blood pressure and alcohol intake is of course encouraged, the flu virus doesn’t care how healthy you are – you can still catch it! Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise even if you’re feeling fit as a fiddle. Protect others by protecting yourself.
Myth: ‘I don’t work directly with patients who have respiratory diseases, so I probably don’t need it’
Truth: The flu can be dangerous to anyone with a range of long-term health conditions such as chronic heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease or a weakened immune system. And whilst it’s true that the elderly, the very young, and people with underlying medical conditions tend to be at a greater risk, this isn’t always the case. Even previously healthy people can develop severe complications from influenza; in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 outbreaks, up to one third of deaths from influenza were in people previously considered ‘healthy’.
Myth: ‘Flu isn’t that serious’
Truth: Far from it. Public Health England estimates that an average 8,000 people die from flu in England each year and some years that figure could go beyond 14,000. That's more than eight times the number of confirmed cases of measles (91), mumps (717) and rubella (5) combined in 2016. The 1918 flu epidemic is estimated to have affected half the world's population, and killed 40-50 million people worldwide, whilst the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world every year.
Myth: ‘The flu jab gives you the flu’
Truth: This is one of the most common myths regarding the flu vaccine and it’s absolutely untrue. Many people report feeling unwell, sometimes even with ‘flu-like’ symptoms. There could be many reasons behind these symptoms – from a previously incubating infection to possible psychosomatic symptoms, but the injected flu vaccine is inactive, so there’s no way it can give you the flu!