Flu season is here and now is the time to get a flu shot

The aches, the sneezing, the sore throat, the exhaustion -- flu season is here and you want to be prepared.Typically,...

Posted: Oct 7, 2019 9:17 AM
Updated: Oct 7, 2019 9:32 AM

The aches, the sneezing, the sore throat, the exhaustion -- flu season is here and you want to be prepared.

RELATED: FLU SEASON IS ALREADY UNDERWAY IN ALLEN COUNTY

Typically, the "season" starts in October, but there has already been flu-related deaths reported. Physicians say it's not too early to get a flu shot and they are available at many pharmacies and doctor's offices around the country.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible.Doctors say you definitely want to one before Thanksgiving, when you are likely to see more people, travel and be exposed to more germs. It typically takes about two weeks to build up your immunity once you get the shot.

Last year's flu season

For the 2018-2019 US flu season, which started October 1, 2018, and ended May 4, preliminary numbers from the CDC estimate there were nearly 42.9 million cases of flu, up to 647,000 hospitalizations and up to 61,200 flu deaths.

It wasn't a typical flu season, experts said. The severity was moderate, the CDC reported, but it was record-breaker as the longest flu season in a decade.

"Last year was funny in a way," said Dr. William Schaffner, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases medical director and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "We had an unprecedented event with one virus dominating the season early on, then it abated, then another strain came along, making this a double-barrel season that we hadn't seen before and also making it rather prolonged."

Predicting the flu this year

For this year, the "crystal ball is very cloudy," about how bad it will be, but flu season is "not good for anyone," Schaffner said -- especially for the very young, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic conditions. All are vulnerable to the worst effects of the flu.

"One sure thing about influenza is, where and how it will spread or what kind of season we will have, it is unpredictable," said Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, the director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, a division of the CDC. "The more we know, the more we know you can't figure it out very well."

Jernigan said the CDC has increased the number of viruses it tests for and it works with scientists from all around the world to track them. Using sophisticated artificial intelligence and modeling they can characterize where the virus is going and what kind of virus it will be to some extent. But it's not easy, since the virus changes every year as it moves through the population.

The virus also can change within a season as it moves from country to country. Looking at how bad a flu season was in Australia, which has winter when the United States has its summer, is not necessarily predictive of what the flu season will be like in the US, Jernigan said.

"This virus continues to be elusive," Jernigan said."While we don't have a clear idea, we do know flu is going to be here and the best way to prevent it is to get a vaccine."

"We get on our soapbox and remind people that everyone older than 6 months needs to be vaccinated every year," said Schaffner.

Get your flu vaccine

It's not a perfect vaccine because there are a number of flu strains that circulate, but it does provide some protection. If you happen to get sick, the vaccine cuts down on how long your symptoms last and it should protect you from the major complications that come with the flu, such as pneumonia.

"What the vaccine does is shift the equation in our favor," said Schaffner.

This year, nasal spray is an option for some patients, including children who may not like getting a shot. In some years, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended children stick with a shot, as some studies showed it was more effective. There is no such suggestion this year.

The time get the shot is now

Schaffner adds that if you have a chronic disease such as diabetes or asthma or heart disease, the flu shot should be a part of your regular care. In that case, you are the kind of patient that the flu makes very sick and you are at highest risk for hospitalization and death. The flu can also put you more at risk to have a heart attack or a stroke.

With some older people, doctors might recommend they get the vaccine in the middle or end of October, because their immunity could wane toward the end of the season. But Dr. David Cennimo, an infectious disease specialist and assistant professor in the department of medicine at Rutgers University, said he usually tells his patients to get it whenever they can.

"If they are really concerned about the potential for the vaccine to wane over six months, they may want to wait a few weeks but you really don't want to go beyond middle October or the end of October, because of the risk of exposure to flu in your area," said Cennimo.

What else can you do to avoid the flu?

There are ways to avoid the flu.

Repeatedly washing your hands can help protect you this flu season. Flu germs tend to linger and hand washing can cut down our exposure.

Avoid friends and family members that are sick.

And for the sake of those around you, stay home from work or school if you are sick. Rest will help you get better and staying home can protect people around you.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1380370

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1534461574
Cuyahoga1354332341
Hamilton984041326
Montgomery677001161
Summit566391051
Lucas51349869
Butler47858663
Stark42048983
Lorain31922539
Warren30328338
Mahoning27315643
Clermont25897297
Lake24746422
Delaware22501147
Licking20701246
Fairfield20658223
Greene20527275
Trumbull20127516
Medina20006290
Clark18086332
Richland16602236
Portage16305231
Wood15869209
Allen14257261
Miami13963261
Muskingum12858155
Wayne12126244
Columbiana11896242
Tuscarawas11103271
Marion10865150
Pickaway10580129
Scioto10477127
Erie9822171
Ross9566177
Lawrence8886125
Hancock8567143
Ashtabula8423187
Geauga8226156
Belmont8221188
Jefferson7635175
Huron7507131
Union740751
Washington7334126
Athens705965
Sandusky6925135
Darke6853137
Knox6762122
Seneca6496137
Ashland6035115
Auglaize593188
Shelby5796104
Brown572972
Mercer563690
Defiance5538101
Crawford5530117
Madison549371
Highland548082
Fulton539583
Clinton532081
Logan516987
Preble5058111
Putnam4876107
Guernsey480664
Williams466482
Perry459054
Champaign452264
Ottawa441384
Jackson432963
Pike397045
Morrow393851
Coshocton386669
Fayette381753
Adams366875
Hardin363970
Gallia352858
Holmes3297111
Henry328869
Van Wert318871
Hocking308070
Wyandot284558
Carroll265452
Paulding245143
Meigs220242
Monroe191949
Noble172942
Morgan169429
Harrison160041
Vinton140619
Unassigned05
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