Shorter days and cooler temperatures are tell-tale signs autumn has arrived.
Unfortunately, another sign of the season is the beginning of increased flu activity. Flu season can last from autumn to as late as May — peaking between December and February. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s flu cases were historically low, thanks in large part to widespread practice of safety measures to combat another widely-circulating respiratory illness — COVID-19 — including school closures, mask wearing and social distancing. With less common practice of those measures over the past several months, we could see an uptick in flu cases like prior years’ levels. That potential — along with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — makes it even more important we each do what we can to minimize our risk, protect our health and protect the health of those around us. Getting vaccinated against the flu is a vitally important way to fight it.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death in certain situations. Everyone is susceptible to the flu, but individuals with a greater risk of developing complications from these viruses include children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and blood disorders.
There are a few key ways you can protect yourself, your family and our community, prevent the flu from spreading, and even speed up your recovery if you do become ill.
First — and most importantly — get vaccinated. As we have witnessed this year with the safety and success of COVID-19 vaccines in protecting us from that vicious disease, flu vaccination is the single-best way to protect yourself from influenza viruses. While it is still possible to contract the flu after getting vaccinated, studies show flu vaccinations can make your illness less severe if you do get sick. Getting vaccinated also affords you the peace of mind which comes from knowing you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself against the flu.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, with any age-appropriate flu vaccine. If you are considering a nasal spray flu vaccine, it is important to know this option is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant individuals, ages 2 through 49, and there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions. You should talk with your health care provider regarding which flu vaccination method works best for you.
Like COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines can take approximately two weeks to become fully effective, so you should plan to receive your flu vaccine before flu activity begins in your area. A good rule of thumb is to get vaccinated no later than the end of October.
If you have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, there’s no better time than now — especially as COVID-19 cases continue to spread and the potential for flu activity increases. You can even conveniently get both vaccines on the same day, to save yourself time. If you have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, ask about getting it when you get your flu shot. Being vaccinated against both viruses is your best defense against becoming infected with one or both of these diseases.
You can visit the Comanche County Health Department, a local pharmacy, or your primary care provider’s office to receive a flu vaccination. If you don’t have a provider, visit SWMConline.com and browse the Find a Doctor tab or call 888-796-2362.
For additional information about the 2021-22 flu season, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu or contact the Comanche County Health Department at 580-248-5890.