Sitting on the plane next to someone hacking and coughing? Don’t you wish you had a flu vaccine? You see advertisements on TV, your doctor reminds you to get immunized, and you are familiar with the flu shot.
But do you know these 5 surprising facts about the flu vaccine in travelers?
1. Flu Vaccine is Your Least Glamorous- Best Value Vaccine
Influenza is by far the MOST common infection contracted by international travelers that is preventable by a vaccine. Less famous than the other travel vaccines such as Hepatitis, Typhoid, and Japanese Encephalitis, Influenza vaccine prevents the one infection every traveler is likely to encounter. This humble vaccine does more to save lives and prevent ruined travel plans, all for around $25.
2. Travelers Experience Year Round Exposure to Influenza
Did you know influenza is present year-round in the tropics? We are so accustomed to thinking of flu as a winter disease, and generally speaking in the northern and southern hemispheres it is. However, influenza circulates year-round in warm tropical climates. Don’t forget that summer in the northern climes is winter in the south. Year-round protection against influenza is a must for travelers.
3. The Influenza Virus is Constantly Changing
This virus is really very clever, it comes in several varieties and changes every year to evade your immune system. Additionally, recent pandemic strains (ex. H1N1 Swine flu) now circulate year-round along side of each new seasonal variant. Fortunately the experts who guide vaccine development select vaccine components to match the circulating strains. The vaccine changes every year to keep up with genetic re-assortment of the virus. Last year’s vaccine won’t work this year.
4. Influenza Can Make Common Health Conditions Much Worse
Influenza is miserable for most people, but it can be fatal for people with common diseases. If you or a family member suffers from diabetes, asthma, heart disease and others, a flu shot can be life saving.
5. Do you really have time to be sick when you travel?
High fever, muscle aches, severe cough and fatigue for up to two weeks can ruin travel plans. Not to mention the common complications of sinus infection, ear infection, and chest infection. Don’t let this virus ruin your travel plans, a simple vaccine along with washing your hands will keep you healthy and comfortable.
Now you know 5 important reasons why you should protect yourself from influenza if you travel. Flu vaccines are widely available between September and June in the northern hemisphere. Get your annual flu shot, you’ll be glad you did. Your boss, traveling companions and your family will thank you too.
Posted by Dr. Sarah Kohl
Commentary: While the Flu vaccination is recommended routinely for everyone above 6 months age in USA, in India the situation is complicated by a lack of awareness, and debates of coverage, burden of disease & efficacy of this vaccination. However, I firmly believe that as health care providers it is the moral duty of our doctors to take this vaccination for not only their own protection, but for the protection of patients in their care!