The Flu as a Triple Threat
Aug 23, 2013

The one thing that is certain about the flu is that it is extremely unpredictable.  It’s impossible to predict the severity of the flu from patient to patient and there is no way to anticipate just how many people will be infected, hospitalized or even die as a result of the flu each season.  While estimates of influenza associated deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 per year, who’s to know for certain what this year’s figures will be.

But one thing is for sure.  When the flu hits you or your family, statistics won’t really matter too much.  Take Tammy’s story as an example. 

TammyShotByShotTammy was surprised by a phone call in the middle of the night and the unfortunate news that her grandmother was hospitalized with the flu.  Having been very close to her grandmother, Tammy was quite distraught and rushed to be by her side.  Her worry soon turned to grief as her grandmother succumbed to influenza the next day.

As hard as it was for Tammy to accept her grandmother’s sudden death, what happened next was completely unexpected.

Over the course of the next eight weeks Tammy suffered the worse sickness of her life.  Not only had she fallen ill with the flu, but her condition worsened when she was diagnosed with pneumonia, a serious complication of the flu.  In the video below, Tammy explains her long road to recovery.  She recalls it being a very scary time.  She needed to carry an inhaler with her everywhere she went and her concern, as a singer, was that her lung capacity would never be the same.

But the story doesn’t end there.  As Tammy continued her battle against the flu she received another concerning phone call.  This time it was about her father.  He too had contracted the flu and had been rushed to the hospital following a 911 call.  She was left wondering if his fate would be similar to that of her grandmother and although she desperately wanted to see him during his extended stay in the hospital, she was too ill herself to be by his side.

Tammy’s story is currently featured on the Shot By Shot website and highlights just how unpredictable and dangerous the flu can be.  For Tammy’s family the flu was a triple threat.  Not only did it impact her health, but also the lives of her loved ones, resulting in prolonged illness, hospitalization and sadly, even death.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a seasonal influenza vaccine.  By vaccinating, we not only help protect ourselves from the flu, but can also reduce the spread of influenza, which in turn helps protect the vulnerable people in our communities to include pregnant women, adults over 65, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV, AIDS, cancer, children under the age of five and infants that are too young to be vaccinated.

A survey published earlier this week suggested that six out of 10 people consider getting the flu shot a social responsibility and it’s encouraging to know that the majority of people recognize the impact their actions have on the health of others.  However, with an estimated 54.9% of children and 35.1% of adults in the U.S. vaccinated for influenza during the 2012-2013 season, there’s obviously room for improvement.

This year, instead of just ensuring you and your family get vaccinated, why not encourage others to get vaccinated as well.  With school beginning and flu season right around the corner, one way that you can help is to approach your local school nurse or administrator about participating in a campaign to help Kick the Flu Out of School.  

With the help of this special toolkit, designed in conjunction with Families Fighting Flu, Nurses Who Vaccinate and  Voices for Vaccines, parents and school leaders can help boost  influenza immunization coverage in their schools by generating a sense of excitement through a “contest” with prizes for receiving a flu vaccine.  The toolkit includes a letter home to parents, a letter template to local businesses to solicit prizes and entry forms for students.

The Kick the Flu Out of School program is just one way you can make an impact.  If you have other suggestions as to how people can encourage uptake of the influenza vaccine in their communities by emailing us at info@vaccinateyourfamily.org.


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