Beat winter’s worst curse

by Andy Bryenton

The flu is seen by many as a winter nuisance; an illness that can make the colder months a drag, but is ultimately only as fearsome as a headache or a stomach bug, not long ago, influenza was deadlier than warfare.

It’s true. One hundred years ago, the battles of the first world war killed fewer people than the strain of influenza, which came about at the same time. Then again, people in those days did not have the scientific weapons we use to fight back. Today, modern vaccines are formulated each year to combat the strains of flu which the World Health Organisation tracks and monitors. This year, these include strains of H1N1 and H2N2, that have caused problems in the past.

You can’t catch the flu from a flu shot, as it contains only a ‘dead’ or inert replica of the virus. Your body’s immune system can use this to identify the real thing, in the same way as soldiers train with painted targets on the firing range. An imitation sharpens up your natural response and will help crush the flu. Contrary to the claims of some internet rumours, there is no mercury at all in the flu vaccine. The injection may sting a little, but the benefits are great. Less doctor’s visits and hospital hours free up time and beds for those suffering more critical ailments or injuries. A vaccinated population makes it hard for the disease to spread. It can’t mutate into new, more dangerous forms easily in these circumstances. Winter is nearly here, and the flu vaccine is available through most GPs right now. It’s free for most kids under four who have other health issues, and cost-effective for the rest of us, because a flu-free winter means less costly days off, and less time at the doctor’s office. For more information phone 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.