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Fall means flu season is here

Inoculations urged

October 10, 2018
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

As we head into the final months of 2018, the chances of contracting the flu become a greater possibility.

October is considered the start of flu season and medical professionals recommend that most everyone be vaccinated to prevent illness.

"Flu season in Florida officially beings in October each year, and we usually begin to see larger increases in the number of cases in December," said Jennifer Roth, biological administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Lee County. "On average, we see the highest number of cases in February, but this can vary greatly year to year. We have peaked before in December, and we have peaked in March. It is impossible to say when we will peak each year."

Because the fu can be so unpredictable, it is better to be vaccinated earlier, rather than later, to be covered for a longer time frame, officials said.

"The flu virus mutates and changes easily. The strains of flu circulating each year are therefore always different, so people need to get a flu shot every year," said Roth. "We strongly urge people to receive their flu shots by the end of October. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop from the flu shot so it is best to receive the shot now in order to have enough time to develop immunity before we start seeing an uptick in cases in November/December. If you do not get the shot by the end of October, it is not too late to get it later in the year, you are just setting yourself up for the longest amount of protection by getting it early."

Roth said that every flu season is unique, and that is it difficult to predict how the flu will impact people season to season-making it unclear if any season will be worse than others.

As for any new strains this coming season?

"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) works in conjunction with international health partners to try and determine which strains of flu are more likely to circulate in order to formulate an effective vaccine," Roth said. "But again, it is very difficult to predict which exact strains will circulate because the virus can easily mutate. This year, the vaccine strains have been updated to better reflect what was circulating during last season. This year's vaccine includes an updated H3N2 strain, which was the predominant strain seen last flu season."

According to the CDC website, vaccines and recommended to contain H1N1, H3N2 and Victoria lineage-all different types of influenza.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot; the shot is safe for children older than 6 months, and for pregnant women as well, said Roth.

A new form of vaccine has come in the form of a nasal spray, and has been recommended for healthy, non-pregnant persons ages 2-49.

The CDC recommends older adults to get a pneumonia vaccine, along with the flu vaccine, due to complications pneumonia can cause as a result of the flu.

The easiest way to prevent the flu, is to become vaccinated, said Roth.

"It's difficult to predict exactly what will be the predominant strain but getting a flu shot is the most effective way to prevent the flu. Research has shown the flu vaccine can still provide some protection against new strains of flu and can reduce severe health outcomes such as hospitalization and death," she said.

As of the beginning of influenza season is upon us, experts have seen very few cases circulating at the moment, which is normal- though flu is a year-round possibility.

How can you get your flu shot?

"The Florida Department of Health offers the flu shot, including free flu shots for children 18 and younger. Flu shots are also offered by primary care physicians and local pharmacies," Roth said.

For more information on flu prevention and which vaccine is right for you, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 

 

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