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Erie County Department of Health recommends a flu vaccine as flu season takes hold
Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health
One dose of flu vaccine can prevent the body aches, fevers, chills, stuffy nose, sore throat and general sense of feeling awful that the typical influenza infection causes.
The Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is joining the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health care providers in recommending a flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older.
If you have not yet gone for your flu shot this fall, it is not too late. The flu vaccine is recommended before the end of October, but vaccination after that will still provide protection during flu season. Coronavirus vaccine and flu vaccine can be administered at the same time. The new, bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster protects against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the omicron variants, and reduces the risk of moderate and severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalizations. The CDC has details about staying up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters.
The flu season in Australia, in the southern hemisphere, is ending. The country reported its worst flu season in the past five years, and the season started earlier than usual. Seasonal influenza trends for countries in the northern hemisphere tend to follow what happens in the southern hemisphere.
NYSDOH began reporting lab-confirmed flu cases last week. Already, last week’s reported flu cases were six times higher than reported flu cases during the same week last year – signaling an earlier flu season onset, and confirming that flu is circulating in New York state and Erie County.
“What we do to prevent flu transmission also works for COVID-19, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and other respiratory illnesses that completely debilitate people, especially older adults, very young infants, pregnant people or people who may become pregnant, and people living with a chronic medical condition,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “In addition to getting a flu vaccine, stay home when you feel sick; wash your hands often; cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; and wear a mask as recommended.”
“You may think you are invincible and immune to the flu, but imagine the consequences of a flu infection for your coworker going through cancer treatment, your elderly grandparent, or your child’s friend with a new sibling at home,” she continued. “Don’t put the people in your life at additional risk of illness. A flu vaccine protects you and those around you.”
The flu vaccine is an additional layer of protection for our community’s most vulnerable. Caregivers, those who spend time with people at high risk for flu complications, and people who interact with the general public need to make flu vaccination a priority. That includes people who care for family members at home, and caregivers who work in child care settings, group homes and other congregate living sites, schools and health care facilities.
ECDOH offers free flu testing along with COVID-19 and RSV at the Jesse Nash Health Center at 608 William St. This testing provides results in one to three business days, and is available 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Check www.erie.gov/covidtest for updated schedule.
Groups at Risk for Flu Complications & Hospitalization
•Adults 65 years and older
•Children younger than 2 years old
•Females who are pregnant and up to two weeks after the end of pregnancy
•People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
•People with chronic medical conditions like:
√ Neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
√ Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
√ Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
√ Endocrine disorders (such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes)
√ Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
√ Kidney diseases
√ Liver disorders
√ Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
√ People who are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
√ People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or some cancers such as leukemia), or medications (such as those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, or persons with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system)
√ People who have had a stroke
Who Should Get a Flu Vaccine?
Everyone ages 6 months and older. There are very few medical reasons for someone to avoid getting a flu vaccination. If you have questions, please check with your physician or pharmacist.
When Should I Get a Flu Vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu vaccination before the end of October. And a flu vaccine received any time through the end of the 2022-23 flu season will have a protective benefit. Don’t delay. The best protection comes before the flu season starts in early winter, and it takes up to two weeks to develop antibodies. Children who need two doses of flu vaccine should start the process sooner; two doses must be spaced four weeks apart. Influenza cases have already been diagnosed this season.
Where Can I Get a Flu Vaccine?
Nearly all pharmacies and many doctor’s offices offer flu vaccine. Call ahead to confirm vaccine availability.
Is There a Cost For Flu Vaccine?
With most insurance plans, a flu vaccine is covered completely, and there is no co-pay. Some pharmacies offer flu vaccine for a nominal fee. $30-35 is a common cost.
Complications from flu among children can include:
•Pneumonia (an illness where the lungs get infected and inflamed)
•Dehydration (when a child’s body loses too much water and salts, often because fluid losses are greater than fluid intake)
•Worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma
•Sinus problems and ear infections
In rare cases, flu complications can lead to death.
Take Antiviral Drugs to Treat Flu Illness if Your Doctor Prescribes Them
•Antiviral drugs are available to treat flu in children and adults.
•Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten illness duration. They also may prevent serious flu complications.
•Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics that treat bacterial infections. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that are for treatment of flu.
•Antiviral drugs work best when treatment is started within two days of becoming sick with flu, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person is very sick with flu or is at higher risk of serious flu complications. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking or giving these drugs.
√ Erie County Department of Health, flu: www.erie.gov/flu
√ NYSDOH, flu tracker: https://nyshc.health.ny.gov/web/nyapd/new-york-state-flu-tracker
√ CDC, weekly influenza surveillance report: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
√ CDC, flu FAQs: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2022-2023.htm
√ Where to get a flu vaccine: https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/