“It is worth considering vaccination in order to avoid getting flu and related complications. The complications often have irreversible consequences," claims Professor Lidia Brydak, Head of the Department of the National Influenza Centre at the National Institute of Public Health.

The list of possible complications is very long, e.g. of a cardiological, neurological, nephrological, laryngological and gynaeological nature, as well as transplant rejection, etc. In elderly people the most frequent flu-related complication is post-influenza pneumonia, which often leads to death. In turn, small children often contract bronchiolitis as a result of flu.

Poles are reluctant to get flu vaccinations

According to data from the Department of Influenza Virus Research of the National Influenza Centre at the National Institute of Public Health – the National Institute of Hygiene, in the 2012-2013 epidemic season 3.75% of Poles got vaccinated against flu. Professor Brydak points out that also among healthcare professionals the percentage of vaccinated persons is very low, i.e. only 6%, which indicates that even in this group the knowledge of the risks and consequences of influenza is insufficient.

Among the groups particularly prone to influenza-related complications who should get vaccinated to avoid risk, Professor Brydak mentioned people with cardiovascular-system diseases, with other chronic diseases, with lowered immunity, pregnant women, small children and elderly people. “Flu vaccinations should be offered to all persons willing to get vaccinated," she added.

She also pointed out that for years many local-government bodies have funded flu vaccinations, e.g. for elderly people, within local health programmes. However, there is still little interest in such vaccinations. “Only from a few to 30-40% of the population take advantage of such programmes, and there are local communities in which around 3% get vaccinations within the programmes," Professor Brydak states.

Flu vccination does not cause the disease

In 2013 the National Programme for Combatting Influenza was created.

"Information on the issue is widely disseminated, but there are still some sceptics who dissuade people from getting vaccinated. Are these people going to pay for the treatment of those who did not get vaccinated and caught the flu?," Professor Brydak inquires.

In her opinion, the opponents of flu vaccinations spread the myth that there are cases when people get the flu due to vaccinations. However, as she further explains, the vaccination contains only a fraction of the virus, which is unable to cause the disease.

In the Professor’s opinion, flu is often confused with a cold. Influenza is a communicable disease caused by viruses which multiply in the epithelial cells of the respiratory system. Professor Brydak reminds us that its characteristic feature is the sudden occurrence of symptoms such as high fever, headache and muscle pain, shivers, and intense malaise.

How do you treat influenza?

As Professor Brydak explains, the current monitoring of disease incidence and examinations is enabling the administering of effective new-generation anti-flu medicatin, provided that diagnosis and tests are performed within 36-48 hours.

However, all the over-the-counter medicines only mitigate the symptoms of the disease, i.e. they lower the fever, but they won’t prevent the complications.

More information is available in the book by Professor Brydak “Pandemia grypy. Mit czy realne zagrożenie" (“The flu pandemics – a myth or a real threat?") In the publication issued in 2008 Professor Brydak recommended Poland’s approval of the National Programme for Combatting Influenza.

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