With this year’s especially nasty flu season, there’s been a lot of information flying around (much like those germs!) about viruses and epidemics. As happens when any outbreak grips the country, truths and misunderstandings sometimes get mixed up. For this week’s blog, we’re going to separate popular myths from facts about the flu and other contagious diseases.
Myth 1: The majority of adults don’t need a yearly flu shot
Less than 42% of Americans get a flu shot each year. It’s true that the efficacy of this year’s flu vaccine isn’t as strong as years past—only 25% for some strains—but that doesn’t mean that you should skip it. The flu shot still remains the best way to avoid contracting the flu, which for millions of people and children can cause infections that lead to serious complications and even death. The flu vaccine also creates “herd immunity,” which stops the spread of the disease when large numbers of people get vaccinated. Even some protection is better than no protection.
Myth 2: “Eliminated” pathogens are no longer a threat
The CDC declared measles eliminated from the United States in 2000. However, measles outbreaks still occur, and one out of every thousand children who contract it will die from it. Mumps is another contagious illness reined in by vaccines, but is currently on an upswing. Since the mumps vaccination program began in 1967, there was about a 99% decrease in reported cases. However, in recent years, reported cases have gone from 229 cases in 2012 to 6,366 in 2016.
Myth 3: Closing our borders will keep out pathogens from other countries
During the height of the Ebola crisis, many public figures suggested the United States close its borders in order to keep the virus from spreading inside our country. However, you can’t stop a virus or pathogen from crossing a border or getting on a plane—you can only stop it at its source. Requiring travelers to show immunization records, report symptoms, or even having them undergo temperature scans at airports are all ways to prevent sick people from traveling outside the country and carrying germs with them.
Myth 4: To prevent outbreaks, we just need bigger stockpiles of vaccines
When there is a massive outbreak of disease, like the yellow fever outbreak in Angola in 2016, vaccines sometimes run low. During the yellow fever epidemic specifically, doctors were only able to give infected citizens vaccines, and not preventative immunizations, due to fears of low supplies. There has been much debate about expanding stockpiles of vaccines, but this presents many financial and logistical challenges. Many vaccines are egg-based and have a shelf life, which prevents stockpiling. The CDC advises, rather, on assisting countries like Angola in getting their populations immunized and stopping the spread of disease before it starts.
At Yeboah Law Group, we want you to stay healthy. If you ever get sick or injured due to the negligence of another, we can help. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, please call 1-800-TELL-SAM or complete our contact form.