It is hard to imagine when we did not have a flu vaccine. Thus, we can lose sight of how important it is. In 2017-18, 40 percent of those in the U.S. received a flu shot. This prevented 7 million flu illness, 109,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths. Imagine what could be prevented when more people get the shot. It is not too late. Get your flu vaccine.
Flu activity is now widespread throughout Nevada. There already have been adult deaths from flu in Northern and Southern Nevada. Flu season typically peaks between December and February each year. It can go as late as May.
Flulike symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, might have vomiting and diarrhea. People also might have symptoms without a fever.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. It is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu virus. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and doctors’ visits. Flu vaccination can decrease missed work and school. It can also prevent flu-related hospitalization.
People at high risk of serious flu complications definitely need a flu vaccine. High risk includes young children, pregnant women, those 65 years of age and older, and people with chronic health ailments like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease. Those who live with or care for the high risk people listed can protect them by getting a flu shot.
Infants younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness. These infants are too young to get a flu shot. Studies have shown that flu vaccination of the mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for several months. People who live with or care for infants should be vaccinated.
The most common side effects from flu shots are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also might occur. If these reactions occur, they might begin soon after the shot and last one or two days. There are studies where some people get flu shots and others get saltwater shots. The only differences in symptoms were increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
What about people who get a flu vaccine and still get flu symptoms? There are several reasons that might explain why someone might get flu symptoms, even after they get a flu shot.
Some people can become ill from other viruses besides flu. There are viruses linked with the common cold. These viruses can cause symptoms similar to flu, and also spread and cause illness during the flu season. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.
It is also possible to be exposed to flu viruses shortly before being vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination. It takes the body two weeks to develop immune protection after being vaccinated. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before protection from the vaccine takes effect.
Finally, a person may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the three to four viruses in the vaccine. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the “match” between the viruses in the vaccine and those spreading and causing illness. However, data shows that even if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness may be milder.
Take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
While sick, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. Do seek medical care or other necessities as needed.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Clean surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
For resources and information about Carson City Health and Human Services programs and services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter at @cchealthed, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.
Veronica Galas, RN, is clinical services division manager with Carson City Health and Human Services.