“You can’t get the flu from getting a flu shot,” Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner told The Times-Gazette. “There is nothing in that vaccine that’s alive and will give you the flu.”
He said some people, though, may experience minor symptoms after getting a flu shot, such as a slight fever and chills, or minor aches and pains, which he said is the body reacting to the vaccine, comparing it to the body training itself to “respond to the real thing if it ever shows up.”
The flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick, Warner added.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) established National Influenza Vaccination Week 14 years ago to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccinations through the holiday season and beyond, noting in a news release that the number of people getting flu shots tends to decrease after the end of November.
This year’s national flu immunization campaign is Dec. 1-7, and Warner said his office administered more than 70 more flu shots than at the same time last year.
According to the CDC, the week of Thanksgiving typically marks the start of the flu season. Its most recent report says the illness has wasted no time in hitting the deep South.
High levels of flu-like illness have surfaced in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Nevada, with the highest level in the report for the week that ended Nov. 16 being in Mississippi, the CDC said.
According to the government health agency, there have been four flu-associated deaths among children, with 27 states experiencing local or regional flu activity and the remaining states reporting only sporadic activity.
Warner said his office monitors different indicators in order to identify how things progress throughout the flu season, citing data that came directly from the CDC showing that Ohio is one of the states reporting sporadic flu activity.
“We’re just now starting to see some of those initial indicators that flu season is here,” Warner said. “We’ve seen about an 8 percent increase in the last two weeks in people going to emergency rooms complaining of flu-like illness.”
He said another “interesting and unusual” indicator was the increase in the same time frame of the sale of thermometers from pharmacies across the state, which he said was due to people stocking up on supplies to deal with low-level illnesses at home.
In its report, the CDC stated that flu shouldn’t be looked upon as just a “bad cold,” but could result in serious health complications such as pneumonia and bacterial infections that can lead to hospitalization, and can sometimes even result in death.
The CDC said getting the influenza vaccine:
• Can keep you from getting sick with the flu, and in seasons where the vaccine matched circulating virus strains, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce doctor visits by 40 to 60 percent.
• Can reduce the risk of hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults.
• Helps prevent serious medical events associated with some chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
• Helps protect women during and after pregnancy, and has been shown to also protect a newborn from the illness.
• Can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.
Warner said people at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, and people 65 years and older.
“What we see from the hospitalization side of things is that the very old, the very young and pregnant women tend to be hospitalized more often,” he said. “Those are the groups we really want to focus on, in addition to those that have underlying health conditions, since getting the flu on top of that can develop into something really bad.”
Bonnie Rusch, director of nursing at the Highland County Health Department, said there are walk-in flu shot clinics every Wednesday from 1-4 p.m., and that on the first Wednesday of the month there are both morning and afternoon clinics from 9-11 a.m. and 2-6 p.m., respectively.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.