Signs advertising the availability of flu shots have been popping up everywhere, and Highland County Health Wommissioner Jared Warner said that everyone should get the vaccine.
He advised that everyone should get immunized against the potentially deadly illness, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommending immunizations for everyone 6 months of age and older.
Influenza cases typically begin to increase in October and the season can last as late as May, which was the case last year, Warner said, with the illness tending to peak between the months of December and February.
The health department’s director of nursing, Bonnie Rusch, said even though the flu season generally starts in November, there have already been 17 confirmed hospitalized cases of influenza in the state of Ohio.
According to a report that aired last year on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” one of the earliest deaths from flu-related illness was a 29-year old attorney from Fayetteville, N.C.
The report said that 29-year-old Scarlett Levinson died of complications from the flu at her home on Oct. 2, 2018, with her husband discovering her unconscious in the bathroom.
The cause of death was described as a heart attack directly related to being ill with the flu.
Warner said that people tend to trivialize the illness, sometimes comparing it to catching a cold, but if left untreated, influenza symptoms can quickly escalate to the point of a trip to the emergency room.
According to the CDC, flu vaccines prevent millions of illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths every season.
During the 2017-18 season, the most recent year that flu data is available, the CDC estimated that 48,000 children went to the hospital with flu-related complications, and 187 died.
Of those 187 deaths, the CDC confirmed that half were otherwise healthy children.
“You cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot,” Warner said, explaining that the flu vaccine isn’t a live antigen, meaning that it doesn’t contain a live influenza virus, which makes it scientifically impossible to get the illness from the vaccine.
He said it takes about two weeks for the body to build up immunity after the vaccine is administered, and that if a person came down with the flu after receiving the vaccine, it was because they either had been exposed before getting the shot or shortly afterward.
It takes between one to four days after being exposed for a person to start displaying flu symptoms, he added.
Rusch said the health department will be doing many clinics throughout the month of October, which includes community clinics and Care-A-Van stops at:
• Oct. 8 — 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the old Pamida/Shopko parking lot in Greenfield and at the old Crossroads Diner parking lot in Leesburg from 1-2 p.m.
• Oct. 9 — 8 a.m. to noon at the Highland County Courthouse lawn and from 1-4 p.m. during the walk-in clinic at the health department in the North High Business Center.
• Oct. 16 — Walk-in clinic at the health department from 1-4 p.m.
• Oct. 22 — Care-A-Van in the Rocky Fork Lake area at The Joey’s Pizza from 9 a.m. to noon.
• Oct. 23 — Walk-in clinic at the health department from 1-4 p.m.
• Oct. 24 — 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Union Stockyards parking lot.
• Oct. 30 — Walk-in clinic at the health department from 1-4 p.m.
“Flu vaccines are safe and have been given safely to Americans for more than 50 years,” Rusch said. “While some people who get vaccinated do still get sick with the virus during the flu season, there is a growing amount of data showing that vaccination makes the illness less severe.”
The health department is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Monday and Wednesday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Appointments can be made for getting the flu vaccine by calling the Highland County Health Department at 937-393-1941.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.