Health officials recommend annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older
VANCOUVER — Flu viruses are beginning to circulate in the community, making now the perfect time to get a seasonal flu shot if you haven’t already been immunized this year. According to Clark County Public Health officials, flu shots are the best method to prevent flu, hospitalization and missed days of school or work.
Flu can occur in any month, but transmission primarily occurs October through May. Getting immunized now ensures you’re protected once flu activity intensifies.
“It can take up to two weeks for protection to kick in, so you don’t want to wait until flu is widely circulating before you get your shot,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer. “The sooner you’re vaccinated, the sooner you’re protected. And you’ll stay protected throughout the flu season.”
Health officials recommend annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older. Immunization not only protects the person receiving the shot, but higher immunization rates also help to protect those most vulnerable to complications. Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease and long-term health conditions are at greatest risk of complications from flu.
While most people with the flu do not need to seek medical care, flu symptoms can be severe and typically include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. Those who have flu symptoms and are in a high-risk group, or who are worried about their illness, should contact their health care provider.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that kills more people in the U.S. than any other vaccine-preventable disease. Last year’s flu season was reportedly the deadliest on record in the U.S. with an estimated 80,000 people, including 180 children, dying from flu and its complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the 2017-18 flu season, Clark County had 15 flu-associated deaths, all of whom had predisposing conditions (chronic lung, heart or kidney disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma). One death was a child younger than 10; the others were adults 40 and older. Clark County Public Health also worked with 17 long-term care facilities that reported outbreaks of influenza or influenza-like illness at their facilities during last year’s flu season.
Flu vaccine is widely available in Clark County. To get vaccinated, call your healthcare provider or pharmacy. You also can find locations offering flu vaccines at www.vaccinefinder.org.
For those without health insurance, several medical clinics are offering free or low-cost flu shots, including Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, Battle Ground Healthcare and New Heights Clinic.
In addition to immunization, these everyday practices can reduce the chance of catching or spreading illness:
- Cough or sneeze into your arm or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an alternative when soap and water aren’t available.
- Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.