Taking chances

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Don’t you hate it when you see something on social media that is wrong, but people believe it anyway? When I read something that gives me a twitchy feeling I check it out. There is a danger in blind belief and how it can affect you. Scare tactics that could literally kill you. Take, for example, a post going around about the “dangers” of the flu vaccine. Unfortunately, it’s gone viral, as will deadly diseases if too many people buy into this deliberate and dangerous disinformation.

According to the quack theories making the rounds, vaccines are dangerous because have mercury and animal blood and/or fluids in them.

Let’s look at those “dangers.” The mercury-containing compound in some vaccines is called thimerosal. A tiny amount is used as a preservative, and it poses no health threat at all. There’s far more mercury in a can of tuna fish than in a shot of flu vaccine.

As for the threat posed by animal blood, let’s go back to the late 19th century: microbiologists began to grow bacteria cultures in the laboratory. These early researchers tried to recreate an infected person’s tissues by using solutions containing sugars, salts and various meat extracts to make a growth medium. It was successful in growing bacteria and then viruses in the lab, because the media supplied the many necessary nutrients. Viral vaccines such as influenza must be produced in living cells and can require the addition of complex growth media components, such as foetal calf serum.

So, it’s just the way things are done. Giving in to the scare tactics can harm you. Health Canada said influenza-related problems put around 12,000 people in the hospital each year and estimate 3,500 people die as a result each year in Canada.

It’s also recommended for populations at risk of complications. These people who are more vulnerable include pregnant women, children under five years old, seniors and residents in long-term care or nursing homes. Kids as young as six months old can start getting the vaccine. Those with underlying health problems, such as chronic diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, cancer) should get a flu vaccination.

So, ignore the social media hype that says vaccinations are terrible and get your flu shot. It is the best way to reduce your chances of severe flu and of spreading it to others. It’s a proven method, tried and true, that has been used for more than 60 years.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to stay not becoming a statistic: 1) good hand hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly or using an alcohol-based hand rub after contact with the eyes, mouth, nose or secretions; 2) avoid handling soiled tissues or objects used by an ill person; 3) cover coughs and sneezes; and, 4) if you get sick then stay at home, drinks lots of liquids and get plenty of rest.

And besides getting a flu shot, fact check what you read in social media. The wrong information could kill you and this is just one example. Don’t take chances.

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