It’s Time to Complete a Very Important Annual Assignment

Fall is here, and along with crisper temperatures and beautiful foliage comes the beginning of “flu” season in the Northern Hemisphere, including the U.S. Genuine influenza is not just a bad cold – it is a serious illness which contributes to thousands of deaths each year from associated pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. Those of us with diabetes are at an increased risk of serious influenza-related complications, and influenza also greatly complicates blood glucose management while we are ill. Fortunately, we can shift the odds of contracting influenza every year to our favor by simply getting vaccinated – getting a flu shot.

So, maybe you don’t “trust” the flu vaccine. After all, there are stories nearly every year that the flu shot “missed the mark,” and other years when dire predictions of a huge flu epidemic don’t pan out. And in today’s atmosphere of negative journalism the stories of these “failures” get a lot of screen time, hinting at government incompetence. But, don’t let the tone of the media influence your decision to protect yourself every year. You are better off with, and definitely should get, a flu vaccine every year.

The influenza virus is a master of disguise, and the makeup of the annual flu shot is based upon a guess – an extremely educated guess – of which disguise the prominent viruses will be wearing this season. These projections are based upon which viruses are most common or most dangerous in the Southern Hemisphere during our summer (their winter flu season). The two vaccines available for the 2016-2017 season will protect you against either 3 or 4 different strains. But, the flu virus occasionally reshuffles its genetic makeup, and a new variant will spread after the annual vaccine has gone into production – it takes about 6 months to produce a reasonable quantity of flu vaccine, so there is no way to include a new variant in a timely manner. But, while these unpredictable variants get all the attention, failing to get the vaccination leaves you vulnerable to the variants that were properly predicted.

So, get your vaccination now. Your odds of contracting this serious infection will go way down no matter how you slice it, and having diabetes makes those improved odds even more important.

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