All faculty, staff, and students throughout the Mount Sinai Health System are expected to get an annual influenza vaccination, a request that has new urgency this year. For the first time, the New York State Department of Health is requiring that all hospital personnel either receive the influenza vaccination or wear masks in areas where there is potential for patient contact, including lobbies, corridors, elevators, and cafeterias, as well as in all typical patient-care areas. This new regulation will be in effect throughout the influenza season, which typically runs from December to late spring.
In my daily practice at Primary Care Associates, I get asked many questions about the flu and the flu vaccine. Despite improved access to accurate, responsible information in the media and on the web, a number of myths about the flu and the vaccine still exist. So here it is, point-by-point, information for you to make informed choices for your healthcare.
Myth #1: The flu vaccine gives you the flu
Facts: The vaccine, including this year’s version, consists of a dead virus which cannot infect you. What it can do is make your body produce the antibodies necessary to fight that virus if you come in contact with a live version of it. The live virus is included in the Flu Mist – a nasal spray, not an injection – but it is engineered so that it will not make you sick.
Myth #2: If you weren’t vaccinated by November, there’s no point in getting it now
Facts: While we are seeing a large number of cases right now, the flu often doesn’t hit its peak until February or even March. And while it does take two weeks to be fully effective, the vaccine will help lessen the severity if you do get the flu.
Myth #3: There’s no treatment for the flu
Influenza has officially reached epidemic proportions in several regions of the United States. Approximately 7.3% of deaths (exceeding the 7.2% threshold) are now attributed to pneumonia and the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mount Sinai is taking a number of actions in order to continue to provide optimal care to all of our patients and to protect our patients and staff from exposure to influenza.
What can you do to protect yourself and others from influenza?
- It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Click here to make an appointment online with one of our primary care doctors or call 212-241-6585
- Dr. Prarthana Beuria recommends being vigilant about washing hands every time you’re out in public and around lots of people, whether in the subway or at the office, and to avoid touching your face with your hands.
- If you have the flu, Dr. Beuria recommends that you “stay home from work until the fever has been gone for 24 hours. If people around you have compromised immune systems, stay away.”