What is the flu?
Influenza, better known as the flu, is a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system. The virus is passed from person to person though respiratory droplets emitted when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs. People find themselves at risk for contracting the flu when inhaling infected droplets or touching their eyes, mouth or nose after touching something that has been infected.
In the U.S., flu season typically runs from October to May, most commonly peaking between December and March. During the 2016-2017 flu season alone, 145.9 million people were vaccinated against influenza. Although modern medicine has significantly impacted the number of people affected by the flu, there was a time when tens of millions around the globe felt its reach.
While vaccination is an effective course of preventative treatment, protection is not guaranteed.
To boost protection, try the following recommendations:
- Keep hands clean by washing them regularly with hot, soapy water.
- Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing. You can use a tissue, your upper arm, elbow, or the inside of your shirt to trap respiratory droplets.
- Dispose of tissues immediately after use.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you do need to touch them, wash your hands both before and after making contact.
- Clean high-contact surfaces frequently, including keyboards, cell phones, door handles.
- Know the difference between cleaning (physically removing germs), disinfecting (killing germs with chemicals), and sanitizing (lowering the number of germs to a safe level).
- Make time for sleep. Adults should sleep 7-9 hours each night to re-energize the systems managing the body’s essential functions.
- Get plenty of exercise. Physical activity can boost the body’s immune response to harmful bacteria and viruses.
- Manage stress appropriately. High levels of stress can weaken your immune system.
- Consider taking a multivitamin, and be sure to get the recommended amount of Vitamin D.
- Pursue a nutritious diet. Filling your plate with foods rich in color is a strong indication that your diet has enough antioxidants.
- Utilize nasal irrigation products, which can wash pollutants out of nasal tissue.
- Monitor your fluid intake to be sure you are keeping your body hydrated.
- When possible, avoid close contact with people who are or may be infected.
- Stay home when sick, except to seek medical attention. If you begin to feel ill, stay home until 24 hours after your fever has dissipated.
The CDC recommends that all people above the age of 6 months be immunized with the flu vaccine. Special emphasis should be given to certain “at risk” populations, including children aged 6-59 months, adults above the age of 50, and women who are or will be pregnant during flu season, among others.
Individuals should not get a vaccine if they are younger than 6 months old or have experienced severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients.
Talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot if you are feeling ill, have previously been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), or have an allergy to egg or other vaccine ingredients.
What side effects are associated with the flu shot?
While you cannot contract the flu from the flu shot, vaccines, like any medication, come with the risk of side effects. Common side effects include: soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; low grade fever; muscle aches; or toughness/itching at the injection site.
These reactions typically present soon after the flu shot and last one to two days. If you experience a life-threatening allergic reaction, such as breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, increased heart rate, or dizziness, seek medical attention immediately.
What is the risk of injury?
In some cases, symptoms persist and develop into something more serious. Injuries that have been associated with the influenza vaccine in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program include:
- Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
- Brachial Neuritis
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
- Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA)
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
- Transverse Myelitis (TM)
If the resulting injury lasts more than 6 months or results in surgical intervention during inpatient hospitalization or death, you may be eligible to petition for compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVCP).
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 37.71% of the 5,353 compensated petitions from 1988 to 2017 were a result of complications with the influenza vaccine. Of the 3,404 influenza petitions processed during the same time period, 59.31% of petitioners were compensated.
Flu shot injuries continued to increase in the past year, with 72.44% of the 1,753 petitions filed in the NVICP between 2016 and 2017, resulting from complications with the influenza vaccine.
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Vaccines are an important part of public health, working to save lives by preventing disease. Most of the time, vaccines are administered without any serious problems. Like with any medication, however, there is a risk of side effects, ranging from mild to serious.
For this reason, the US government created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), a “no-fault” alternative to the traditional legal system. Petitions can be filed by any individual, at any age, after developing an injury believed to be a result of a covered vaccine, if jurisdictional requirements are met.
Conway Homer, P.C. is the most experienced vaccine injury law firm in the United States. We represent clients from all 50 states and have advocated for landmark cases that have shaped the Vaccine Program and made it friendlier and more generous to those individuals who suffer from vaccine injuries.
To get in touch with our dedicated team, click here for a free consultation.