Earlier this month, the county’s Public Health Department informed us that the first flu death of the 2015-2016 influenza virus in the state of California was recorded in Santa Clara County.
As a health care professional, this news saddens me deeply, both because a life was lost and because I suspect that this drastic outcome could most likely have been prevented.
The deceased person was an adult under 65 years of age who had chronic underlying medical conditions, tested positive for influenza A, was hospitalized and ultimately died from respiratory failure.
Unfortunately, the individual had not received the flu vaccine this year.
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting vaccinated against influenza every year to protect yourself and everyone you come in contact with. There are certainly more at-risk people like infants, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic condition for whom the vaccine is a true life-saver. But even perfectly healthy individuals can suffer complications from the flu.
Why do we all need to get vaccinated?
Between October and April, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the US and can linger everywhere. This particular year with the predictions of a wet winter due to El Niño, it’s safe to assume that we will be spending more time indoors, which will increase the chances for any of us being exposed to the virus.
If droplets containing the influenza virus were visible to the human eye, it would be very easy for us to avoid them. We would immediately see them when someone infected is coughing or sneezing and we would keep our distance. And we certainly wouldn’t touch those contaminated surfaces or objects when we see them. Unfortunately, this is not the case and, because we can’t distinguish the droplets infected with viruses, it is nearly impossible for us to avoid them. The most effective way to stay healthy is to equip ourselves with enough antibodies to resist it. That is precisely what the flu vaccine does for us: it provides us enough ammunition to fight the virus when we encounter it.
I urge you to not underestimate the potential devastating consequences of contracting the flu. Influenza is a serious infectious disease that cost us a lot in terms of lost school or workdays, and it can lead to hospitalization and death. Please, get your flu vaccine today. It’s the smart thing to do!
Wishing you and your loved ones a flu-free season,
Ranjani Chandramouli, MD
Gardner’s top 5 suggestions for staying healthy this winter:
#1 Get the flu vaccine. It’s not too late.
#2 Keep your distance from those who look sick.
#3 Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
#4 Don’t put your fingers in your mouth or rub your eyes.
#5 Encourage everyone around you to follow these suggestions. If they stay healthy, you’ll stay healthy.
* There are many vaccine options available. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, ask your doctor or other health care providers.
Gardner’s Flu Clinic Schedule: