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Ebola and the Flu

The Ebola virus is out there. It does kill about half the people that get it. The virus is in the US. Yes, those are scary facts.   But should you be actively worrying about it? Sure, but there are other things – things that you can actually control – that you should be doing. At this time of year, pretty much everyone should be getting their seasonal flu shot. While the seasonal flu (parainfluenza a) does not have the impressive mortality percentage that Ebola does, I assure you that the flu will kill WAY more Americans in the next six months than the Ebola ever will. Over the past 20 years or so, the flu kills approximately 30000 Americans per year.(1)

A key point to know is the mode by which the two viruses are transmitted. Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids of a person who is actively sick. Flu is a respiratory virus – which means that it can be coughed and sneezed onto people. It is significantly easier for respiratory viruses to be transmitted than those which require direct contact. Case in point, look at all of the concern about the passengers who were on the planes with those who ended up being stricken with Ebola – how many of them ended up contracting the disease – ZERO. Think how many times you’ve caught the cold that “everyone had at work.” – why? Respiratory transmission!

Some of the concerns you may have:

  1. You cannot get the flu from getting the shot (except POSSIBLY from the FluMIST nasal spray, because it is a live virus – although EXTREMELY weakened) because there is no live flu virus. What could happen is that you MIGHT experience some mild “flu like” symptoms. However, this is your body mounting an immune response. As bad as this might be, which shouldn’t be bad anyway, it will be way better than getting the actual flu.
  2. Even if you personally would survive a bout of the Flu, and feel that you don’t need to immunize yourself, part of the way a community protects itself is by blocking transmission. In a way, I feel that we all have somewhat of responsibility to help keep the health of our community as high as possible. Hypothetically, you could get the flu, head to the supermarket to get some ibuprofen and orange juice and while there you cough on some nice senior citizen who was not able to get the shot. Guess what, you might have just killed someone!
  3. Flu shots are not a government conspiracy. Pharmaceutical companies don’t make a lot of money on shots – that’s why so few make them. Doctors only make a few bucks on the shots and the pharmacies often lose They hope you buy something else when you’re in the store that they DO make money on.

What should YOU do? Except in rare cases, get a flu shot. You doctor, pharmacist, nurse will review the list of people who shouldn’t get the shot. But, again, just about everyone SHOULD get immunized. Now.