It’s important to get a flu shot every year. Getting a flu shot is especially important this year because of Ebola.
No, a flu shot absolutely positively will not protect you from Ebola. But since the first symptoms of Ebola and flu are similar, a flu shot will at least protect you from worrying that it is Ebola.
Most flu shots are covered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. How does the ACA work in general?
The first symptoms of flu are fever and body aches and lack of appetite leading to dehydration and weakness, exactly the same as the first symptoms of Ebola. But after that, things change dramatically.
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With the flu, symptoms generally start to improve after three days or so.
With Ebola, that’s when symptoms worsen as the virus spreads rapidly throughout the body, destroying immune-fighting white cells, and the victim suffers vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure and extreme headaches.
After a week, when flu patients are getting back to normal, Ebola patients are bleeding internally and externally and organs begin shutting down.
It’s important to remember that the flu virus is spread much like the common cold, and both can be avoided by normal hygiene, including washing your hands regularly with soap and water and covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing. My young granddaughter was taught in pre-school to use the inside of her elbow, not her hand, to cover up a sneeze or cough – a great technique.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu germs, even common cold germs.
Ebola is contracted only by direct contact with the fluids of those already infected, which is why health care workers are seen in news photos and videos wearing full Hazmat protection.
In no way am I minimizing the dangers of Ebola, or the heartbreak for the loved ones of its victims. But despite the panic over Ebola, it is not nearly as deadly as other infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and even measles.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since 1976, Ebola has infected fewer than 5,000 people worldwide and just over half of them have died. By comparison, measles kills more than 100,000 people every year despite worldwide vaccination campaigns, and malaria kills an estimated 600,000 a year.
Also according to WHO, HIV has infected more than 75 million people worldwide. Half died, but approximately 35 million people currently live with the infection.
Everyone six months of age or older should get a flu shot, especially anyone at high risk of flu complications. That includes pregnant women, anyone with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart or lung disease, and everyone 65 or older.
If you do get the flu, the CDC recommends seeing your doctor for an anti-viral drug such as Tamiflu, available by prescription only.