Local health care officials, as well as officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are recommending those over six months of age receive the yearly flu vaccine.
While the flu season doesn’t peak until December, individual cases begin surfacing as early as October. For that reason, the CDC and health care officials are encouraging everyone to get flu vaccinations now. This flu season, according to Meagan Myers, immunizations nurse with the Sampson County Health Department, the CDC is expecting an increase in flu activity in the coming weeks. The flu is expected to cause illness, doctor’s visits, hospital stays and even deaths in the United States.
In preparation for potentially one of the worst flu seasons, local drug stores and pharmacists are now offering the seasonal flu vaccines to residents of Sampson County to help protect them against the virus.
“One of the most important services our pharmacy can offer during this 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 severe 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.”
The influenza vaccine takes approximately two weeks to build enough immunity in the body to protect someone against the flu virus. That is why Myers is encouraging everyone to get the vaccination as soon as possible.
“Getting vaccinated early is key for preventing you from getting the flu,” Myers added. “Influenza can potentially be a very serious illness and is highly contagious. Getting yourself vaccinated will not only protect you from getting it, but it will protect others from receiving it from you as well.”
According to the CDC, each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications.
Seasonal flu vaccinations are especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older. It is also important for healthcare workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to protect them from getting sick.
“Everyone is at risk for getting this illness,” Myers said. “Flu viruses are constantly changing. Different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The seasonal flu vaccine is changed every year to protect you against the flu virus that research indicates will be the most common one for the season. This is why it is very important to get your flu vaccine every year.
Many people say they feel the vaccination doesn’t work or may not target the flu strain that is prevalent at the time.
“It is possible that the flu vaccine may not fully protect you against the certain virus we may see, but it protects you against four strains of flu virus and four is better than none,” Myers said. “At the minimum, the flu vaccination will reduce the symptoms of the flu greatly, so why not play it safe.”
Clinton Drug Company, along with other pharmacies in the area, as well local physician offices, are offering flu vaccinations daily.
Bryan encourages those who 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, to contact a local pharmacy or physician immediately.
In addition to receiving the flu vaccination, Myers says there are other steps one can take to help prevent someone from getting the flu.
Myers encourages people to wash their hands. Hand washing, she said, is the number one step in infection control. Hands harbor millions of bacteria just from every day use.
“Washing your hands well and washing them often will protect you against those bacteria,” Myers added. “Always wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 15-20 seconds. This will ensure you kill the bacteria that are on your hands.”
Another preventative measure, according to Myers, is to cover coughs and sneezes with an arm. This will prevent the spread of germs to other people.
The health department nurse also encourages people to stay at home if they are sick, especially if running a fever. This will allow time to rest and get better and will also prevent infecting anyone else.
Fore more information on the flu vaccination, contact your local physician, the health department or a local pharmacy.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.