Now is a great time to get a flu shot
Oct. 12, 2022
By Mary Wade Burnside
It might be easy to forget about your flu vaccine this year. After all, while we’ve obviously been dealing with a viral pandemic for the past two seasons, flu cases have been low.
But health officials are telling us that this is not the time to let your guard down.
Because not only has flu not been on our collective radar, but mask use brought on by COVID is also down dramatically.
Plus, in the southern hemisphere, where the flu season occurs roughly six months before ours, cases started early and were higher than in recent years.
It’s put Americans on alert that we could be in for something similar.
At Monongalia County Health Department, we’ve been offering flu vaccines since September. But the truth is, we believe there is a sweet spot for when individuals should get their annual shot: Around now.
Too early, and effectiveness might wane before the end of flu season, which can stretch into April and sometimes even May.
Too late, and family members gathering for Thanksgiving might be exchanging a virus along with their hugs and meals.
Remember, it takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, so figure that detail into any plans you have if you are going to an event or will be visiting family.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Some people, such as those 65 years and older, young children and with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.
It is recommended that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. Children, older people and those with conditions that compromise their immune system are especially vulnerable to flu and should be inoculated. Also, pregnant women should vaccinate for two — not only for themselves but also for their babies, who cannot get inoculated during their first six months. And, people 65 years old and older might want to consider the high-dose vaccine that offers four times the antigen of the standard dose. At MCHD, have run out of high-dose vaccines but we still have the regular shots.
In addition to getting a flu shot, there are other actions that help you avoid getting sick. These are commonsense habits that people should practice anyway and that MCHD has been promoting throughout the COVID pandemic. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with warm water and soap, for about the length of time that it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Keep surfaces in your home and office clean. Avoid people who are sick.
And, maybe, don that mask in crowded spaces, especially if or when flu cases start rising.
If you do come down with flu, ask your doctor about antivirals, especially if you are elderly or have underlying health conditions that could put you at increased risk of severe disease. Administered quickly enough, they can help lessen the length and severity of a bout with flu.
Also, if you get sick, stay home from work. If you really need to seek medical attention, do so, either to get antivirals or if you develop a secondary infection that could require antibiotics. But otherwise, the cure for flu without complications is generally rest, fluids and time. Antibiotics do not help you recover from a flu virus.
Please consider scheduling your flu vaccine now. And also, because we’re the health department, while you’re at it, you can also consider other vaccines: pneumonia (65 and up or younger for immunocompromised people), shingles (50 and older) and, of course, your COVID bivalent booster that offers better protection against the omicron variants.
In addition to calling 304-598-5119 to make an appointment, you can also make an appointment online.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.