Flu season has arrived in Idaho – Get your annual vaccination by end of October!

Flu ShotsWe at the Department of Health and Welfare have started tracking flu season, and you know what that means — it’s time to get the annual flu vaccine. We have had some indications that the season may hit us earlier this year than in recent years, so don’t delay. Flu season can last from October to May, and it typically peaks anytime between December and March. Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious infection, even for otherwise healthy people.

Let’s start with the basics: Who should get the vaccine?  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine. It’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for very young babies or people who are at high risk for developing complications should also get vaccinated.

Are the recommendations excluding the nasal mist again this year?

Unfortunately, yes. My apologies for all the kiddos who will have to endure a shot. The effectiveness of the nasal mist is too low, according to the CDC. Check again next year, because the manufacturer is working to fix the problem. 

CDC_Flu_Facts_Twitter_Green_largeHow long does protection from the flu vaccine last?

Protection begins about two weeks after you receive the vaccine, and it will last throughout the season. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk for illness, but it doesn’t eliminate it. While your body is building immunity, you could still get sick. You could also become infected with a strain of flu virus that isn’t covered by the vaccine. In addition to getting the flu shot, you can also wash your hands often to avoid infection, and if you do feel sick, stay home to avoid infecting others.

Do experts say the vaccine will be a good match this year?   

Experts make an educated guess to update flu vaccines before the start of each season based on the influenza viruses that are making people sick in other parts of the world. Flu vaccine effectiveness is difficult to predict so early in the season because the viruses are constantly changing. But it’s still your best bet for protection.

If it’s so difficult to tell how much protection the vaccine will offer, why should people get it?

We recommend flu vaccine each year because it prevents illness, and more than that, it prevents serious illness. Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Between 3,000 and 49,000 people die each year, depending on the virus. Every flu season is unique, and flu viruses affect different people in different ways depending on their age and overall health. This is why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. Even if it doesn’t offer complete protection, it could lessen the severity of illness if you do get the flu.

How many people die from flu-related complications in Idaho?

Idaho has averaged 23 flu-related deaths each season since the 2005-2006 season. Last season, from 2016-2017, Idaho recorded a record number of flu-related deaths, totaling 72. And we’ve already gotten our first report of a flu-related death this season. That’s a good indication of how unpredictable each flu season can be. It also highlights how dangerous flu is, and why getting the annual vaccine is so important.

A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on KBOI Newsradio 670 AM in Boise; this is the transcript from the Oct. 4, 2017 program.


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