As many of you are aware we are presently in the middle of flu season.
Young and old alike are at risk for contracting the influenza virus, which still takes the lives of 30,000 Americans each year. That is an awful lot of people, landing itself in the top 10 causes of death annually. Why is the flu virus so dangerous?
In short, the flu is an RNA virus, just as the common cold and the coronavirus are. Unlike DNA, RNA does not have a built-in mechanism to prevent a virus from mutating rapidly. Fortunately, most of the mutations obstruct the functionality of the virus and can destroy it, but because the influenza virus can attach itself to a cell and burst, it leaves a “swarm” of between 1,000 and 10,000 different viable mutations that can infect another cell. It only takes a matter of days for a drug-resistant mutation to emerge, and since the influenza virus reproduces rapidly it also adapts too rapidly for the immune system to respond in an efficient way if the body has not been exposed to a similar strain to create the antigens necessary to sound the alarm to fight off the infection. It only gets more complicated from here, you can find a more in-depth yet easily understandable explanation on any public health service website like the CDC and NIH, among others.
Herein lies the importance of the flu vaccination. While not perfect, the vaccination allows your body to build up a better immunity to the projected strains that will be spread throughout communities. This year’s vaccine success rating is proving to be up to 78% effective in different parts of the world but is generally 40-60% effective according to the CDC.
Another important reason to receive the flu vaccination is to help develop herd immunity. Vulnerable people such as those 65 years of age and up, young children, those dealing with chronic conditions, and those so immuno-compromised they cannot receive a vaccination themselves, have to depend on others for protection. I can personally relate as having been born with heart disease, I am (like many others) one of those at an elevated risk for a deadly secondary respiratory infection if I am infected with the flu.
In my opinion, getting the flu shot falls in line with the universal Jewish value of “tikkun olam”. The very idea of “repairing the world” is grounded in the public service model of what’s good for the world is good for you, so please consider getting your flu shot today.
Jared Blitz, ACSM CPT, PAPHS, EIM
Fitness & Wellness Manager
Jared is a former clinical Exercise Physiologist that has taught Health and Exercise Science courses in higher education for the past 10 years. He is looking to restart and complete his Master of Public Health program as soon as he settles into his new role at the J.