By Ana Arellano
Each year, more than 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations are related to seasonal influenza and it appears the Latino community is at greatest risk because of pre-existing conditions and a reluctance to get flu shots. Less than 2 in 5 Latinos got a flu shot last year.
Latinos, who have higher rates of asthma and diabetes, are more likely to have young children, and often have elderly relatives living with them, have a lot to gain from immunization against the flu. Yet the statistics are troubling. The Centers for Disease Control reports that for the 2011-1012 flu season, only 39.1 percent of Latino adults over 18 years old received the flu shot. This compares to 49.1 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, who have fewer health risk factors than Latinos.
“People give many reasons for not getting the flu shot,” says Dr. John A. Foley, president of The Connecticut Medical Society. “Many say that the shot gives them the flu. They may believe this because they are having a reaction to the shot—aches and pains—which is very different from getting the flu.” He adds, “It takes two weeks for the flu shot to begin to work, so you can get the flu or any virus until it goes into effect.” Afterwards, though, you are protected for the entire flu season.
Foley further explained, “Those who are most susceptible to the flu already have a pre-exsisting condition. The very old, those with diabetes, asthma, or individuals with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.”
Even healthy people with a low risk of complications from the flu can suffer from this highly contagious illness. “You can become violently sick,” says Dr. Foley, “And it can affect you so badly that you will miss weeks of work.”
Protecting yourself is the primary benefit of getting the flu shot. The other benefit is that you will protect your loved ones. Individuals who get the flu are contagious one day before they show any symptoms, reports the CDC. So even if you are washing your hands, not touching others when you feel ill, staying home when you get sick, and covering coughs or sneezes you may be spreading the germs to friends or family.
The CDC notes that children, especially those under age 5, are also at “greater risk of serious flu-related complications.” Hugging or kissing a child, or even touching a child’s toy leaves germs behind.
Regardless of ethnicity, there are more ways than ever to get immunized in Connecticut:
- If you don’t have very much time, you can go to “Drive thru and Beat the Flu” on Saturday, Oct. 27, in Groton and you won’t even have to get out of your car. To register: contact Kris Magnussen at 860- 448-4882 extension 331 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are voting, eight polling stations in Litchfield and Hartford Counties will also give you the flu shot if you wish. Use the Vote and Vax (as in Vote and Vaccination) Finderto find one near you.
- Maybe you have no insurance or lack the $30 for the shot? Middletown, Durham, and Cromwell are having free, no registration flu clinics in October and November. No residency required. Visit the individual town websites or call 860-632-3426 in Cromwell, 860-349-7123 in Middletown, 860-349-8253 in Durham, or 860-344-3474 in Middlefield for information.
- The city of Bridgeport offers free flu shots to anyone over 65 on Wednesdays. Call 203 576-7468 to make an appointment.
- If all of these locations are inconvenient, you can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finderand see the many CVS Stores, Rite Aids, and Walgreens, and other pharmacies – at least one in almost every town in the state.
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