After a low turnout Dec. 2 at a flu vaccination clinic at the Madera County Public Health Department’s Oakhurst office, health officials are urging people to get their vaccination as soon as possible.
Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said that with the first influenza-associated fatality in a person under the age of 65 reported last week in Southern California, her office is once again urging people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from getting sick.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot and the sooner the better,” Do-Reynoso said. “The best way to prevent getting the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age or older, including pregnant women. We encourage everyone to contact their health care providers, clinics or pharmacies about obtaining the flu vaccine.”
Do-Reynoso said vaccines protect more than the people who get the flu shots - such as babies who are too young to be immunized but can catch the flu from adults around them.
“Adults should vaccinate to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Do-Reynoso said.
Do-Reynoso called influenza a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. In 2014, Madera County recorded one death associated with influenza and one intensive care unit hospitalization. Last year, there was only one adult hospitalization and no deaths in the county.
Infants and young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system are at greater risk.
Flu strikes suddenly and can last several days. Symptoms vary by age, but can include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.
Do-Reynoso said a yearly flu vaccination is the best protection to prevent the virus.
Compared to previous years in the county, this year’s flu season is off to a slow start since there have been no communicable disease reports of influenza-like illnesses or deaths from local hospitals. “However, this could change at any moment given the height of the flu season is typically is in December and January,” Do-Reynoso said.
“What’s important to remember is that according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 85 children died form the flu in the United States last flu season, and most had not been vaccinated,” Do-Reynoso warned.
Those who should not receive a vaccination are children younger than six months and people who have had a severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.
Vaccinations over nasal spray
A federal immunization advisory committee has recently recommended that “nasal spray” flu vaccine, an alternative to the flu shot, not be used during the 2016-17 flu season due to the fact that the spray was only 3% effective against the flu for children ages 2 to 17 during the 2015-16 flu season. The flu shot, however, was 63% percent effective.
AstraZeneca, the manufacturer of FluMist Quadrivalent, said back in June on its website that its studies show the nasal spray was 46-58% effective against the circulating strains of influenza during the 2015-16 flu season.
The recommendation will mean more children will have to get flu shots this year to be protected from influenza. About one-third of the vaccine given to children is by nasal spray, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People do prefer the spray over the injectables,” said Gilda Zarate-Gonzalez, deputy public health director for Madera County.
The CDC said it had projected the nasal spray would be about 8% of the total of 171 million to 176 million doses of flu vaccine in the 2016-17 season.
Preventing the flu
The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and often washing your hands can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used for treatment and prevention.
☆ Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.
☆ If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick.
☆ Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
☆ Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
☆ Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
☆ Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work and school.
☆ Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
Flu shots are offered by appointment only at Madera County Public Health on the fourth Friday of the month. The office is located at 41969 Highway 41, Oakhurst, (559) 658-7456.
Details: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-800-232-4636, cdc.gov/flu, Madera County Public Health Department, (559) 675-7893.