By Becky Killian / Editor
As temperatures drop and people crowd inside warm buildings, the opportunity for a flu outbreak increases, so it’s time to get that flu shot.
The Tri-County’s health departments have flu vaccines available and encourage residents to get their shots as soon as possible so they are protected against the flu.
“The best way to prevent something is to immunize against it,” Rinda Vanderhoof, nursing administrator for Laurel County Health Department, said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everybody six months and older should get an annual flu shot. Vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women or individuals with compromised immune systems, who have diabetes and those who are morbidly obese, are considered especially at risk for flu-related complications.
New this year are vaccines that protect against four flu strains and those are available at Whitley and Knox county’s health departments, according to Gail Timperio, public health director for the Whitley County Health Department, and Becky Davidson, clinic nurse for the Knox County Health Department.
The Laurel County Health Department is offering a vaccine that offers protection against three flu strains.
The CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other, simply indicating it’s important to get vaccinated annually.
Vaccines are developed about a year in advance and scientists have to determine which flu strains are likely to circulate and how much they are likely to have changed.
“The good thing is though that some of these mutations, they don’t mutate a whole lot,” Davidson said.
It takes about two weeks for the vaccine take full effect, so health officials urged getting shots now.
It’s also the best time to get a shot since the protection peaks in about six months — which means those vaccinated now will remain well-protected throughout the height of the flu season, Vanderhoof said.
Vanderhoof also wanted to dispel a common myth about flu shots.
“You can’t get the flu from it (the vaccination) because it’s not an active vaccine.”
In Knox County, Davidson said there’s no school nurse program so children won’t get their flu shots at school. She urged parents to arrange for their children to get their shots now — whether its at the health department or a private physician’s office.
All health officials remind area residents the consequences of not getting a flu shot can be dire.
“Influenza kills many people every year,” Vanderhoof said. “So if you can prevent it, it’s a very small sacrifice to get an injection.”
Timperio wanted to remind everyone of routine precautions to avoid getting and spreading illness, such as frequent hand washing, coughing into the crook of your arm rather than your hand and, if you get sick, stay home.
“Don’t go soldiering on unless you really have to because then you’re going to spread it,” Timperio said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza, commonly called the “flu,” “is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications.” The flu is different than a cold.
—Fever or feeling feverish/chills
—Runny or stuffy nose
—Muscle or body aches
—Vomiting and diarrhea (this is more common in children than adults).
It can take a few days up to two weeks to recover from the flu — unless more serious complications occur that prolong the recovery.
Flu outbreaks typically peak in the U.S. in January or February — however, the CDC indicates outbreaks are variable and seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.