Early flu cases prompt urgent vaccine needs

By Kristy D. Carter - [email protected]

Nationwide, health care officials are urging families to get their flu shot by the end of October, and local health professionals would agree.

According to statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 80,000 Americans died last year from the influenza and its complications. This is the highest death toll from the flu in the last four decades.

Already in North Carolina, three flu-related deaths have been reported. In Buncombe County, an elderly person reportedly died from the flu, while a 29-year-old lawyer from Benson died a week ago of a cardiac event following complications from the flu. Last month, a Wake County school board member died after being diagnosed with influenza.

“You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community,” Kelly Parrish, RN, director of nursing with the Sampson County Health Department, said. “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins.”

After last year’s deadly flu season, the Center for Disease Control is urging people to get a flu vaccine by the end of October. According to the CDC, last year’s flu killed more than 80,000 Americans, including 180 young children and teens — the most deaths since the CDC started keeping track.

“Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout flu season, even into January or later,” Parrish said. “Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.”

The Influenza vaccine takes approximately 2-4 weeks to build enough immunity in the body to protect someone against the flu virus. That is why the Sampson County Health Department is encouraging everyone to get the vaccination now. Getting vaccinated is key for preventing you from getting the flu. Influenza can potentially be a very serious illness and is highly contagious. Getting yourself vaccinated will not only protect you from getting the flu, but will protect those that live or work with you.

“It’s not just about keeping yourself healthy, but your community, too,” officials of the CDC reported. “You should do it for the babies and grandmothers who could get sick and die if they get the flu.

Receiving those vaccinations, health care officials say, is very important when fighting the flu.

“One of the most important services our pharmacy can offer during flu season is help protecting patients against the seasonal flu,” Amanda Bryan, pharmacist at Clinton Drug Company, said. “It is important to be prepared during this flu season, and we are dedicated to supporting our community by providing patients with these essential vaccinations and educating them on additional measures they can take to help reduce their risk of getting the flu.”

While the flu season doesn’t typically peak until January, individual cases began surfacing last month. For that reason, health care officials are asking everyone to get the vaccination early and help control the severity of the virus.

Flu vaccinations are not a 100 percent guarantee from getting the flu, however, for those who have received the vaccination and still catch the flu, the case will be less severe, and you have a greater chance of staying out of the hospital.

There are suggestions for helping contain the virus and keep it from spreading to others. Tips for helping prevent the spread of the virus include:

• Hand and respiratory hygiene is the next best step to preventing the spread of flu. Hand washing helps stop the spread of germs. It’s recommended that you wash often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

• It’s also important to remember to disinfect surfaces and objects that may come in contact with flu germs. In the home and workplace, disinfect phones, keyboards, door handles, and other commonly touched surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. It’s also recommended that people wear a face mask to reduce spreading or catching germs.

• If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, or direct your cough or sneeze into your elbow. This way, you are less likely to touch a surface and spread germs.

According to local health care officials, different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The flu vaccine is changed every year to protect against the flu virus. The CDC, Center for Disease Control, tracks the various strains of the flu and change the vaccines to help fight the most common strains that are found each year.

Local pharmacies and physician offices are offering the flu vaccination daily. Anyone who feels like they are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, are encouraged to contact their doctor’s office or seek medical attention.

Officials: Get shot by end of October

By Kristy D. Carter

[email protected]

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.