05 Feb Update on the 2019-2020 Flu Season
With reports of the coronavirus all over the news, this year’s flu season may have moved to the back of people’s mind. To date, in China, there have been over 28,000 confirmed cases of illness and 563 deaths reported. Unfortunately, that number is increasing everyday. At this point, 12 people in the United States have been affected with the coronavirus and there have been no deaths.
Certainly, the coronavirus is a serious global threat, however, Americans are more likely to come down with the flu. In the U.S., the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 19 million illnesses related to influenza infection, 180,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths.
CDC recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone 6 months of age and older. This is your first line of defense in protecting against the virus. Remember, the vaccine doesn’t just help you avoid the flu. It also minimizes your chances of secondary complications from the virus which include pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack–especially important for people 65 years and older who are already at greater risk for these conditions.
It is still too early in this year’s flu season to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness. Generally, a flu shot reduces the risk of contracting the flu (or having a less severe version) between 40% and 60%. And, it is not too late to get a shot. Certainly, the best time to get the flu vaccine is by the end of October, before the illness starts spreading in your community. However, the flu season generally can go until May. As long as people are getting sick in your area it is beneficial to get the vaccine. Influenza seasons can be unpredictable and a surge of new cases can occur late in the season.
Call your doctor or local pharmacy to make sure they still have a supply of the vaccine available. I checked our local CVS pharmacy and they still are giving flu shots. To further avoid getting sick, wash your hands often, cover you mouth with a sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and stay home when feeling sick. Kindly remind and encourage your family members, friends, and people in your community to get a yearly flu shot. The vaccine not only protects an individual but also provides herd immunity which helps protect the population as a whole.
Anyone 65 years and older should get a flu shot and not a nasal spray vaccine. There are regular flu shots that are approved for use in people 65 and older and there also are two vaccines designed specifically for seniors: High-Dose Flu Vaccine and Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine. Ask your doctor which one is best for you.