It’s October and baseball season is soon coming to an end with the last base tagged in the upcoming World Series, but the influenza season is just heating up. People need to step up to the plate and cover their bases with a flu vaccine, according to the Tazewell County Health Department (TCHD).
The TCHD is urging people to have the influenza vaccine. It is best to have the shot before the end of October for the best coverage. Anyone age 6 months or up are eligible for the vaccine. The elderly and people with chronic illnesses are at higher risk from influenza. The health department for the second year is not using the nasal vaccine, because it has proven ineffective in preventing the influenza.
Angie Phillips, TCHD director of clinical services, said the flu and influenza are two different things, though influenza is referred to as the flu. The flu refers to what is commonly known as the stomach flu — throwing up and other minor discomforts. Influenza attacks the respiratory system, said TCHD Communications Manager Sara Sparkman.
Fewer elderly people are getting the influenza vaccine. With the baby boomers aging, there should be more getting the vaccines, said Sparkman.
Phillips said influenza can kill. Adults age 65 and up are 3 to 5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack during the first two weeks of the onset of infection and two to three times more at risk of a stroke in the first two weeks of infection. Pneumococcal Pneumonia kills more than 18,000 adults age 65 or older in the United States each year. People with chronic conditions are at higher risk.
“People are living longer with chronic conditions, but they’re more compromised because of the fact that they’re older and have those conditions,” said Phillips. “So they are at higher risk for the flu.
“So that’s the population that has the greatest instance of getting the flu as well as dying from the flu. The respiratory system is compromised, so blood flow is not as efficient. There’s an increased risk of clot formation, which causes both heart attack and stroke.”
The influenza season does start in the fall, said Phillips, but people can contract it at anytime of the year.
“If you look at the statistics, flu deaths happen every week,” said Sparkman. “The statistics are broken down by flu season week, and there are a few no matter what week of the year it is in the United States.
“We see that the big concentration of cases usually starting in December and extending through early to mid-spring. With the travel and the way people are always moving with flight, I think everything is more transient — the diseases are.”
The flu starts in Asia most of the time and travels quickly around the world.
There are four strains of flu expected this year — H1N1 variant, first isolated in 2015, and H3N2 variant, both ranked A, most serious. Both have been in every influenza vaccine in recent years, said Phillips. Brisbane and Phuket trains, both with B rankings, are also expected this flu season. Strains are rated A, B, C or D depending on the severity of the illness it causes, said Phillips. There are two types of vaccines this year — one that covers both the A ranked virus and the Brisbane strain, and another that covers all four of the viruses.
The Center for Disease Control keeps a map of the flu on its website. At this time, Illinois is showing no influenza activity. The two biggest reasons, said Sparkman and Phillips, for the flu to spread is that people are not vaccinated and they don’t stay home from work or school when they have it.
Symptoms start two days after exposure to influenza, which include cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Some people throw up or have diarrhea as well. The severity of the symptoms is greater with the Influenza A strains, said Phillips. Flu is typically spread by droplets when someone with the flu talks, coughs or sneezes. People can also get the flu by touching something, like a door handle, that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, eyes or nose.
Sparkman said it is a myth that the influenza vaccine causes people to get the influenza. She said that if someone falls ill after the vaccine is received it simply means they were exposed to it prior to the shot. The vaccine will make some people a little achy as the body uses the vaccine to build immunity to the influenza strains. It takes approximately two weeks for the recipient of the vaccine to be fully protected by the shot.
“Some of it is just an immune response also,” said Phillips. “Your body has kicked into high gear with that flu vaccine, so it’s building the immunity and can cause you to feel a little ache.”
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The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends following the 3 C’s — clean, cover and contain.
• Clean – frequently wash hands with soap and warm water.
• Cover – cover a cough and sneeze.
• Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick.
To get the vaccine
• The Tazewell County Health Department is offering the influenza vaccine at its clinics. The cost is $30. Walk-in clinics are from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.; 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month.
• Bring an insurance card or medical card.
Information provided by the Tazewell County Health Department.