Flu Season 2015 — Getting The Influenza Jab Could Save Your Life

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that an average of 36,000 people will die of flu this year in the U.S. alone, potentially more if there are strains which are resistant to current antiviral drugs offered to the most vulnerable. This number is based on a ten-year average, and takes into account that the actual figure of flu deaths each year is far greater than recorded on death certificates.

A 2015 flu pandemic could mean there are even more deaths. Bird flu, swine flu, and now dog flu (there is no evidence dog flu has — as of yet — spread to humans) could mutate and spread, and if this happens on a large, uncontrolled, scale, then the figure could climb into the hundreds of millions worldwide, as was the case of the 1918 flu pandemic, in which 28 percent of all Americans were infected, of which 675,000 died.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was spread due to the increased exposure brought on by World War 1. As hundreds of thousands of troops went abroad to fight, they took their infections with them and brought their infections home. With the Syrian refugee crises sending thousands of people into Europe, the possibility of a pandemic in 2015 is greater than it has ever been.

According to the Global Security Matrix, a global pandemic could threaten the very survival of the human species.

“Disease does not respect state borders, nor does it discriminate based on state of origin. Global pandemics put every human on the planet at risk.”

So what can we do about the 2015 flu season?

First off, it is important to get your flu jab. The fewer people who contract the illness, the fewer chances influenza has to spread. According to the CDC, those with underlying health problems, such as asthma, and elderly people, as well as health care professionals, should all get vaccinated, as they are at an increased risk.

Doralissa Villaman,15, receives a flu vaccination from pediatrician Dr. Amanda Porro M.D. during a visit to the Miami Children's Hospital on January 7, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that in the United States the virus that causes the flu is particularly bad this year and has hit most parts of the United States, with 43 states experiencing "widespread" flu activity and six others reporting "regional" flu activity.

Second, wash your hands and cover your cough. This is perhaps the most effective way to stop the spread of influenza, as contact with surfaces which infected people have touched or coughed and sneezed upon will harbour the flu virus for hours. Covering your cough is one effective way to help prevent spreading the virus.

It is important to develop good habits like always covering your cough so as not to infect others by spreading the infection to surfaces with which others will have contact.

Third, stay at home. Employers need to be sensitive about flu infection and encourage their employees to stay at home and rest in bed. Encouraging workers to come to work when they are ill will assure that higher percentages of your work team are infected and will result in even more sick days as those forced to come to work spread their infection to others.

It is important to avoid going out if you can when you have flu as there is no better prevention than keeping your infection away from the public.

In sum, vaccines are not a perfect solution, but are essential for the most vulnerable. The best way to slow and stop the spread of infection is by following the advice above and, if you are in a group recommended to get your flu 2015 vaccine, go out and do it before you are infected and potentially spread the infection to others.

[Images by Oli Scarff, Joe Raedle, Andreas Rentz, Sean Gallup /Getty Images]