“This year’s vaccine looks to be a good match with this year’s influenza strains, including the H3N2 strain we're seeing circulating in the community,” said Northwest Georgia Public Health’s Dr. Wade Sellers in a news release. Sellers said this particular influenza strain can be associated with more severe flu seasons.
“In the past, what we’ve seen is that H3-predominant years tend to be the worst. The increasing flu activity we’re seeing should be a wake-up call,” he said. "For anyone who has put off vaccination, it’s time to get your flu vaccine now.”
Northwest Georgia Public Health spokesman Logan Boss said the Walker County Health Department is out of the flu vaccine, but said that is not cause for the public to panic. Boss said area physicians, big box retailers with pharmacies, such as Wal-Mart, pharmacy chains and local pharmacies tend to keep a good supply of influenza vaccine on hand throughout flu season.
“There’s plenty of flu vaccine widely available this season,” Boss said, “and two types — the traditional ‘flu shot’ and the nasal-spray vaccine. You’ll need to check with your health care provider to determine which is recommended for you.”
“Some people should not get the flu vaccine, and your provider can help you determine if you’re in this small group,” he added.
Boss warns this flu season could be a long one, based on the early arrival of flu season this year.
“Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March, but can sometimes extend into spring,” he said. “Influenza is incredibly unpredictable. The only thing we know for certain, besides its unpredictability, is that getting vaccinated in the best way to protect against it.”
Boss said influenza immunization is recommended for everyone over six months of age and especially for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. Those include children younger than five, especially those younger than two, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions including asthma, heart disease and chronic lung disease.
“It’s important for household contacts and caregivers of children younger than five years to be vaccinated,” Boss said, “but especially so for those of children younger than six months, since infants less than six months of age can’t be immunized. Get immunized yourself and, in doing so, wrap that blanket of protection around the young child.”
Boss emphasized it’s important to take preventative measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy this flu season.
“It’s important to wash your hands, cover your mouth and remain home if you’re sick, all those things your mother told you, but the single best way to prevent yourself or your loved ones from getting the flu is to get immunized against it,” he said. “It’s still not too late to be immunized and, in about two weeks, get the protection the flu vaccine provides.”
For more information about seasonal flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov/flu.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
· Fever or feeling feverish/chills, although it’s important to note not everyone with flu will have a fever
· Sore throat
· Runny or stuffy nose
· Muscle or body aches
· Fatigue (very tired)
· Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Take your child to the pediatrician or to the emergency department if he or she displays any of these symptoms:
· Rapid or labored breathing
· Bluish skin color
· Not drinking enough to maintain hydration
· Not waking up or interacting
· Irritability to the point that he or she doesn't want to be held
· Also, consult a doctor if your child's flu symptoms improve but then return and include a fever and worse cough