The flu season had an early and active start for 2012-13, but there are still vaccines available and it is not too late to reap the benefits of those vaccines as the season could last through April.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is currently receiving large numbers of reports of flu infections and hospitalizations from all regions of the state and is aware of nine deaths from the flu. ADH and Mercy encourage everyone six months of age or older to get a flu vaccine.
Director of infection control at Mercy Hospital Berryville, Carolyn Bosshardt, believes the flu vaccination is the best method for prevention. The viruses are always changing, so each year scientists work to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause flu in that year. “This year’s particular vaccine is a great match for the strain that is being seen. While there are some vaccinated people that will still become infected with the virus, those people typically experience symptoms of less intensity than if they would not have been vaccinated.”
According to a release from the ADH, “The vaccine provides 60-80 percent protection against the flu and provides roughly 70-90 percent protection against flu-related hospitalization.” Once vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for protection to fully develop.
Most of the time, symptoms that can include fever or chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and a runny or stuffy nose only last a few days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system can get much sicker. Often for them, flu can cause high fever and pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. In children, it can cause diarrhea and seizures.
Getting vaccinated is a simple way to be proactive about one’s health. “I would encourage people to protect themselves with the vaccination, but also have them think about their loved ones around them. Grandparents, infants…those are the ones most at risk for hospitalization or even death from influenza,” said Mercy Clinic Family Medicine – Berryville physician, Dr. Shannon Card. Infants cannot be immunized for influenza until they reach six months of age. “By getting a flu shot, you are also protecting those around you.”
In addition to the flu vaccine, there are many things you can do to decrease the spread of germs this season.
Sherri Plumlee with the Carroll County Health Department said it is hard to predict when shortages of vaccinations will start to become an issue. “We have a good supply today, but there has been a definite increase in requests for vaccinations just in the past couple of weeks.”
It is important to get your flu shot while they are still readily available. To schedule your flu shot, contact your primary care physician’s office, or walk into the Carroll County Health Department on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Vaccinations at the health department are $30, but they will not turn anyone away due to the inability to pay. Insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare are also accepted.