It is estimated that in America only half of the population at risk applies the vaccine each year to prevent an influenza infection that causes more than 772,000 hospitalizations and between 41,000 and 72,000 deaths annually in the region.
Seasonal influenza, also known as influenza, is an acute viral infection that can cause serious complications requiring hospitalization and even death. Few people recognize their seriousness and mix it with cold, but every year 772,000 people have to be hospitalized on average, and between 41,000 and 72,000 people die as a result in the region of America.
The most effective way to prevent serious complications is by vaccination. Although there is a vaccine of moderate effectiveness – due to the changing nature of influenza viruses that require an update of its composition annually – but which contributes to reducing cases and complications, it is estimated that only half of the population is at risk every year in the countries of the region who report data.
In an article published in the latest PAHO Immunization Bulletin – which has been distributed globally for 40 years – experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have explained myths and truths about the flu and the vaccine to prevent it.
Myth 1: The flu is like a cold. FALSE
The seasonal influenza is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, cough (usually dry), muscle and joint pain, headache, and can cause serious complications requiring hospitalization and even cause death in people at high risk. Colds are caused by other viruses and are usually present as runny nose, throat irritation and perhaps a little fever.
Myth 2: Influenza can be a very serious and deadly disease. TRUE
There are groups of populations that are more at risk of complications than flu: pregnant women, children under 5 years of age, elderly people and people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, pulmonary and heart disease, although sometimes children and youth without risk factors. also present them. Studies show that patients who were hospitalized with flu that were not vaccinated have between two and five times the risk of dying from those who were previously vaccinated. Healthcare staff, given their exposure to patients, is at greater risk of becoming infected and transmit the disease, and therefore their vaccination is essential.
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Myth 3: The vaccine can cause infection with influenza. FALSE
Influenza vaccines have been used for decades, are safe and do not cause flu. None of the two existing vaccine types – the one that is administered by puncture and contains inactivated viruses, or one that is applied with a nasal spray and contains attenuated viruses – can cause disease. After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the body to be protected, during which time a person may receive flu or other respiratory viruses with similar symptoms and mistakenly believe he has received the flu from the vaccine.
Myth 4: Undesirable events from the vaccine are serious. FALSE
Like any other vaccine or drugs, there are side effects of influenza vaccination. However, the adverse effects most commonly associated with the vaccine are mild and are mainly pain and redness at the injection site.
Myth 5: The flu vaccine is not effective. FALSE
The effectiveness of the vaccine, or the protection it provides, is usually moderate (40 to 60%) and varies every year. Its efficacy varies by age, health status, and whether circulating viruses are similar to those for which the vaccine protects. Vaccination of pregnant women is key to protecting the baby, because the vaccine is not recommended in children under six months. In the season 2017-18 flu in the United States, it was estimated that the vaccine prevented 7 million cases, 109,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 flu-related deaths. Also, evidence suggests that if a person is vaccinated against influenza and spreads, the disease will be less serious than if it has not been vaccinated, which can prevent complications, hospitalization, or even death.
WHO recommends annual vaccination in pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, children from 6 months to 5 years of age, over 65 years, patients with chronic medical illness and health workers. In addition to vaccination, personal protective measures are recommended, such as often washing their hands and drying well, maintaining good respiratory hygiene, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or tissue sneezing and removing them properly; self-isolation quickly in case of discomfort, fever or other flu-like symptoms; avoid contact with sick people; and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.