Note: This is day 24 of National Preparedness Month. Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep #BeReady or #PrepMonth hashtags.
This month, as part of NPM20, I’ll be rerunning some updated preparedness essays, along with some new ones.
Because we live in an uncertain and oft times dangerous world - which was true, even before 2020 rolled around - I'm a life-long proponent of being prepared to deal with the unexpected. For this reason I devote a good deal of this blog each September to National Preparedness Month.
I keep the requisite first aid kit in my home and car, keep a couple of weeks of extra food and water in the pantry, a months worth of extra Rx meds, and have a bug out bag, a disaster plan, and a couple of `Disaster Buddies' I can call on in an emergency.
I'm far from being a `survivalist', because I recognize that at my age - and with my cholesterol and B/P - that's probably not a realistic goal. But I am a modest `prepper', and have been for my entire adult life (see NPM13: The Making Of A Prepper).You might not have thought about it, but getting your seasonal flu shot each year should really be part of your overall preparedness plan. During a disaster or prolonged emergency you are going to be tired, stressed, and your immune systems likely weakened.
The last thing you need to be dealing with during a crisis is to be sick with the flu. Granted, if I were truly committed, I'd also eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise more . . . but at this late date, I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen.
But I do get the flu shot every fall, and have now for 15 years in a row. Which is why yesterday I masked up and visited my local CVS pharmacy, where I got my yearly jab (along with my one-time Prevnar Pneumococcal Vaccine).
Both were quick, and easy, and covered by my insurance.
While I'm fully aware that that flu shot probably provides me with less than 50% protection, I also know that I haven't had the flu - or any other respiratory illness - for nearly a decade.
I've participated in the Flu Near You surveillance program - a partnership between HealthMap (healthmap.org), Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund - every week since 2011 (see The `Flu Near You’ Survey), and haven't had to report an illness in the past 9 years.
While I'm sure my obsessive use of hand sanitizer when out in public, my avoidance of crowds during the winter, and no small amount of good luck have probably been big contributors to that remarkable run . . . I've also not missed a flu vaccine since 2005.
This year, the return of seasonal flu, and the how well this year's vaccine will match circulating strains, is more up in the air than usual. But given my age, comorbidities - and what we know about co-infection with COVID-19 and influenza - I'll take whatever extra insurance I can get.
Even when the flu shot doesn't prevent infection, there is growing evidence it can reduce the severity of one's illness, and reduce your odds of having a heart attack or stroke. Some recent studies include:
While the current flu vaccine is far from perfect, and can’t promise 100% protection, it – along with practicing good flu hygiene (washing hands, covering coughs, & staying home if sick) – remains your best strategy for avoiding the flu and staying healthy this winter.
And with our concurrent COVID pandemic, anything that can help keep you out of the hospital this fall and winter is worth considering.