The Centers for Disease Prevention and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are recommending getting influenza shots early this year, as early as August, Barton County Health Director Shelley Schneider said.
“They have reformulated the vaccine to hopefully cover the strains from last year,” she said. The 2017-18 vaccine missed a couple flu varieties that cropped up during the flu season.
However, “they always recommend this, but we don’t always get the vaccines in time.” The department will begin offering the vaccine as soon as it comes in.
It is unknown whether this will be an exceptionally virulent flu season or not, she said. But, the hope with the early vaccinations is that more people will be protected.
This would be beneficial for students heading off to college, Schneider said.
This seems early, she said. “It feels like we just get over one flu season and we are ready to start another.”
But, “the best way to fight the flu is with a flu shot, before you get sick,” said Michael Munger, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Remember, you don’t get the flu from the flu shot, and it’s one of the easiest ways you can keep you and your family healthy.”
The flu vaccine typically becomes available each fall before flu activity peaks, which is typically between December and February. But flu season can last as late as May, according to the CDC.
“There are also other preventive measures you can take,” said Veronica Anwuri, family physician practicing in Kansas City, Mo. “Always wash your hands with soap and water. And cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands; eat well, and get plenty of rest.”
If a doctor diagnoses the flu, antiviral drugs are available by prescription that, when taken quickly enough following onset, can help reduce flu symptoms and shorten the time one is sick. Other over-the-counter medications that can help include acetaminophen, which can reduce fever and help with the body aches.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Some flu viruses are severe enough to require hospitalization. Flu viruses can also be life threatening if patients have other chronic illnesses.
There are no restrictions and everybody has access to it.
Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick. Studies indicate the average adult brings his or her fingers to the nose, mouth or eyes about 16 times per hour, and germs thrive on human touch.
Depending on the severity of the season, 5 to 20 percent of the population may get influenza each year.
The CDC estimates that the flu virus has caused between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses in the U.S. each year since 2010. Those cases resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths each year.