Jason Davis is a Public Information Officer for the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Here is a summary from his presentation at Southtowne’s meeting on Nov. 20th, in case you missed it.

Influenza is the most common cause of death in the US. As a matter of comparison, in an average year:

  • No one dies from anthrax
  • 2 people die from shark attacks
  • 55 people die from lightning strikes
  • 80 people die from tornadoes
  • 100-300 die from flesh eating bacteria

The flu spreads through respiratory droplets and contact transmission. Every case causes about 2 cases. What is the best way to prevent an outbreak that can spread at this rate? The answer is vaccines.

Vaccines are 60% effective and have resulted in the prevention of major diseases including polio, measles, rubella, smallpox etc. by 90-100%. However, the rate of people that get the vaccine is all too low. Last year Lane County’s adult flu vaccine rate was 38%. Oregon has one of the highest influenza like activities in the US. We’re likened to states with less regulations and more humid environment because of our low immunization rate.

There are many reasons that people choose not to get vaccinated. These barriers include education, concerns of side effects and effectiveness, and distrust. 2-8% of kids claim religious exemption from immunizations and this has grown significantly over time. Although these are valid concerns, there are many myths that surround vaccines:

  • The flu vaccine is not a live virus vaccine. People cannot get the flu from the vaccine.
  • Vaccines do not weaken the immune system (there is no evidence). This can be true with immunizations but not vaccinations. When you give a vaccine, it stimulates the immune response and so you may feel tired or sore. The flu shot takes two weeks to become effective so you may get sick in the meantime, but it’s not because of a failing immune system.
  • Vaccines do not cause autism and the doctor that started that rumor lost his license.
  • No major religion forbids vaccination.
  • There are potentially serious side effects to the flu including hospitalization and death. Hospitalization is not limited to just the very young or very old; Anyone can be hurt by the flu.

Influenza is also costly.

  • The flu costs tax payers 13 million dollars because of unpaid medical bills.
  • The flu costs Lane County businesses 10-12 million. If there is an outbreak year, costs go up up up. Lane County costs would be $500 million.
  • The US Cost is $675 billion.

How can we help to remedy this situation?

  • Cover your cough and sneezes and dispose of tissues quickly.
  • Get vaccinated.
  • Promote the Flu 50 Initiative to improve the vaccination rate from 38-50%.
  • Make it easy for employees to access vaccines.
  • Public Health will come to your business, and has a Vaccine for children program that is either 100% free or on a sliding scale so every parent can afford it. All educators know this. Public Health does many things that Rotary does but on a community scale. Disease prevention, maternal and child health, education and literacy, etc.

So, when will you get your flu shot this season?