Photo by Wendy Howell.
WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Despite the extended warm fall weather, flu season is officially here.
North Country HealthCare (NCHC) and Safeway have the 2016-2017 flu vaccine in hand and are urging everyone to get vaccinated.
“This is a good time to get it,” said Nell Brown, North Country nurse manager, about the onset of flu season. “The season is October to May, but it usually peaks sometime in December or January.”
Brown said it takes two weeks to build immunity to the flu and she recommends getting in as soon as possible before flu season ramps up.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu vaccine is recommended for ages six months on up. If it is a child’s first flu vaccine, health providers give half a dose during the first visit and the second dose four weeks later.
“We especially recommend it for people with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or anyone that is immune compromised,” Brown said.
Brown said last year NCHC saw quite a few patients with the flu.
“We definitely had a flu season,” she said. “It was late last year and it was the ones who did not get their flu shots.”
Brown said if someone in the family gets the flu, she says washing hands is the most effective way to minimize transmission to other family members.
“It usually lasts about six days,” she said. “The main thing is to give fluids and administer Tylenol or Motrin for the fevers, and keep them out of school.”
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Health officials had difficulty in convincing the public to get flu shots after the ineffectiveness of the 2013-2014 vaccine. But according to the CDC, the 2015-2016 vaccine was 47 percent effective in protecting people from the flu, one of the higher rates in the past decade. Typically the flu vaccine is 10-60 percent effective.
According to the CDC, the highest rates of outpatient visits for influenza occur among children aged two through 17. Complications, hospitalizations, and deaths from the flu are typically greatest among persons over 65 and children under five. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to severe symptoms and illness attributed to influenza.
Flu viruses change constantly from one season to the next or they can change within the course of one flu season. Because of these factors, there is always the possibility of a less-than- optimal match between circulating viruses and the viruses in the vaccine.
Every year scientists analyze how the current flu strains have spread and how the current vaccine responds to what’s circulating. A group of experts including the CDC and the World Health Organization use the information to make recommendations about which viruses should be used in the newest vaccine.
Benefits and risks
According to the CDC, there are several benefits to getting the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick from the flu.
Being immunized can help keep family members from catching the flu.
Taking the flu vaccine can reduce symptoms of the flu if a person does get sick.
The CDC says there are some risks with the flu vaccine:
There is a possibility of an allergic reaction.
Some people get swelling, achiness and redness following the shot.
There is a small possibility that influenza vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Methods to receive the vaccine
In the past there were several flu vaccine options for the flu season, including a nasal spray. This year there is only the shot method.
The flu shot — The vaccine is usually injected into the upper arm. It is made from an inactive influenza virus. Adults and children ages six months and up can get the shot. Children getting the flu vaccine for the first time will need two shots, four weeks apart. It is not recommended for those with egg allergies, an alternative is available. There may be soreness in the arm and possibly a mild fever and achiness.
High dose flu shot —recommended for adults over 65-years old. This vaccine can better protect people with weakened immune systems.
Flu shots are available at North Country HealthCare and Safeway in Williams. An appointment is recommended so people can be seen quickly and the nursing resources are available.
More information is available from NCHC at (928) 635-0441 or Safeway at (928) 635-0500.