Last month, the US Air Force announced it will not be providing flu shots this year. At least not to its civilian employees.
The mission of the US Air Force (as I can still recite from my days as a cadet at the USAF Academy) is “to fly and to fight.” And a major flu outbreak could ground the Air Force in no time flat.
So, why are they skipping the flu shot this year? What does the Air Force know that you don’t?
Well, for starters, they probably know that, despite what other government health “experts” would like us to believe, the flu is NOT actually very contagious. So vaccinating against it is a waste of time.
Epidemiologists assign a number called the R-0 (“R-nought”) to describe how contagious a virus is. This number tells us, on average, how many people someone who has a virus will go on to infect.
Consider smallpox, for example. This virus had an R-0 of 3. So, every person who had smallpox infected three others, on average. Polio is another highly contagious viral infection. It has an R-0 of about 5. And measles is even more difficult to control, with an R-0 of 12 to 18.
The flu has an R-0 of just 1.
That’s not very contagious, as far as “epidemics” go.
Why does the influenza virus rank so low? Well, a lot of it has to do with how it spreads.
The influenza virus is a respiratory infection. But it spreads by touch. You must touch a contaminated surface. And then touch your eyes or nose.
However, the virus cannot survive for very long on surfaces. So you have a fighting chance of avoiding infection simply by not touching common surfaces.
Carry your own pen so you aren’t picking up contaminated writing instruments at the bank, post office, and especially at the local pharmacy when you have to sign all that paperwork. Wear driving gloves when opening doors and pushing a shopping cart. If at all possible, avoid crowded places during the height of the flu in your area. Particularly crowded airports and airplanes. And, of course, wash your hands frequently. As you’ll recall from my previous articles on this topic, plain old soap and water kills the flu virus.
But when all is said and done, the Air Force is right. You just don’t need an annual vaccine to stop the spread of this very minor virus.