Flu season is here again. And that usually means a controversial debate over whether the flu shot is effective or not.
Regardless, a new study done by researchers at the University of Florida makes one thing clear: getting kids immunized against the flu helps the entire community battle the illness.
The study took place in Alachua County, Fl., where half of school children from five to 17 years old received vaccinations through a school program. Even considering those children that did not receive a vaccination, the entire group's rate of flu decreased by nearly 80 percent.
However, flu in infants, those unable to receive vaccinations, also decreased by nearly 90 percent. There was also a decrease in flu incidents in adults by 60 percent.
"The effect of school-based vaccination was profound, both on the students and on the community," says Cuc Tran, a doctoral student in public health at the University of Florida.
Every year, the flu kills thousands of people, but even when it doesn't kill, it puts a heavy burden on the U.S. health care industry. According to the CDC, the flu costs over $10 billion every year in hospital stays and doctor visits.
This research sheds light on which areas need vaccines most, as well as who to target them to. It also shows that protecting children against the flu helps not just those who are also vaccinated, but those who cannot be for health reasons.
So why are kids' flu vaccines so important? Kids are great spreaders of viruses, such as the flu. The flu keeps them sick longer than adults, meaning that they're infectious for longer. They also don't have good hygiene habits, which leads to a greater risk of infecting others. Mostly, though, they interact with more people in a single day than most adults, giving them the opportunity to spread flu to more people faster.
Of course, the flu shot this year is controversial. When the CDC recently announced that the current vaccine did not protect against a new strain, some stated they wouldn't receive a shot this year. However, regardless of the strain, the vaccine can still offer protection from the virus, as well as lessen effects if you do contract it.
Others also have preconceived notions about the flu vaccine, most of which are not true.
The bottom line is that if you can get a flu shot, you should. The one thing this study proves is that by protecting yourself, you're also protecting others. Considering that this year's flu season already looks particularly bad, a vaccine is your best bet to avoid getting you and your loved ones sick.
[Photo Credit: Wiki Commons]