This year’s flu season is making national headlines, and local health officials are reminding residents there’s still time to get vaccinated before the typical seasonal spike arrives.
Influenza season peaks in January and February, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public health offices generally hold clinics and push for flu shots in September and October so people can receive them to build up immunity for the season’s peak.
Dr. Dean Kelaita, Calaveras County’s public health officer, said vaccines are still available at locations like public health departments, doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Those who get them now will still have effective defense against the common illness.
Kelaita said the data is not yet showing a higher-than-normal number of flu cases for this time of year.
“Typically, things don’t pick up and start to peak until the beginning of the year,” Kelaita said. “We recommend people still get the flu vaccine in January or February.”
This year’s dominant flu strain, a variant of the H1N1 “swine flu” virus that swept through the United States in 2009, has hit the south and southeastern United States particularly hard. In Texas, five people have died. At least two of them had underlying health conditions including hypertensive cardiovascular disease and obesity.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has asked doctors to prescribe antiviral treatments for patients with flu-like symptoms, even if initial tests come back negative. The agency said a negative result does not exclude a diagnosis of flu in a patient with suspected illness.
More than 200,000 people are hospitalized every year because of the flu, and the virus kills thousands a year, according to the CDC.
It’s even more important for people who are over 50 or have chronic illnesses or conditions.
The flu vaccine is available as an injection or a nasal spray. The nasal spray is available to people between the ages of 2 and 49, with the exceptions of pregnant women and individuals with certain health issues.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue.
For vaccination information, call the Tuolumne County Public Health department at 533-7401 or the Calaveras County Public Health Department at 754-6460.