OK, folks, this will be short and sweet so please pay attention. All indicators so far this year are pointing to a severe flu season. Last year was quite mild, and it looks like we may be making up for it this year.
Forty-eight states, of which New York is one, are already reporting high numbers of flu cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that these are the highest numbers seen this early since the 2003-04 season.
According to Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, “Increasing flu activity should be a wake-up call. For anyone who has put off vaccination: It’s time to get your flu vaccine now.”
It appears that the strains of flu virus that the vaccine is designed to prevent this year are the ones that are being found across the country. Wharton believes that “While it’s early in the season, it’s encouraging to see a well-matched vaccine so far. That bodes well for how well this season’s vaccine will protect against illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”
The CDC’s statistics confirm that the flu can be deadly, hospitalizing up to 200,000 people and killing between 3,000 and 49,000 during a season depending on the severity of the strains.
Everyone six months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu. People in higher risk groups include young children, senior citizens, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. In past flu seasons, as many as 80 percent of adults hospitalized from flu complications had a chronic health problem, as did about 50 percent of hospitalized children.
If you still think this does not apply to you, consider this: Noyes Health laboratory has already confirmed 18 cases of the flu this year, compared to only five all of last season.
See your own doctor for your flu shot or attend one of the Livingston County Department of Health’s vaccination clinics: 4-6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the health department in Mt Morris or 4-6 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the American Legion on route 20A in Avon. The health department charges $38; many health insurances cover that fee as a preventive health cost.
If you think you are too busy with holiday preparations to get the shot, consider this: It may take an hour to get the shot, but a typical course of the flu lasts from 10 – 14 days of feeling really, really sick. How does that sound for a Christmas present?
Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at email@example.com or 585-335-4327.