Get the shot

The high-profile death of a Toronto teen, an otherwise healthy hockey player who succumbed rapidly to the H1N1 virus over the weekend, is a chilling example of the potential seriousness of the swine ’flu pandemic that has been sweeping the globe since the spring.
But with word parents are now beginning to keep their children home from school out of fear of the virus, it’s equally clear there is no need for panic.
While it’s possible the 13-year-old boy’s death is just the tip of the iceberg of what is to come in the weeks and months ahead, the consensus among doctors is that it was the medical equivalent to being struck by lightning; in other words, the chance of dying from swine ’flu exists, but it is quite rare relative to the general population.
It’s important to remember, after all, that the vast majority of the cases have been mild so far—and that many more people die of the “regular” seasonal ’flu each year.
That isn’t to say people should shrug off the H1N1 outbreak. We’ve been urged for months to wash our hands frequently, and to cough/sneeze into our sleeve, to help prevent infection. To stay home from school or work if we’re feeling ill. And now people can protect themselves further by getting vaccinated against the virus, with clinics underway at the Northwestern Health Unit’s offices in Fort Frances and Rainy River, and starting tomorrow in Emo.
Whether or not you choose to get the H1N1 ’flu shot is an individual decision. Keep in mind, however, it may not have individual consequences. Not getting the shot may put your family at risk, as well as your friends and co-workers. Certainly the more people who are vaccinated, the less chance the virus can spread.
As well, the unpredictability of just who will fall seriously ill, as in the case of the Toronto teen, is the best argument for why everyone should get the shot.
We already get vaccinated for the seasonal ’flu each year, and babies are vaccinated against a host of serious diseases. So why the reluctance to protect ourselves against swine ’flu?
The answer isn’t to stop living our lives by cocooning at home in fear or panic. Rather, the best protection is using common sense—and that includes getting the H1N1 vaccination.