Submitted by the Niagara County Department of Health
It’s fall, and influenza (flu) season is here again. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. The virus also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Flu can cause severe illness, hospitalization and death. Anyone can get the flu, and serious problems can occur at any age.
Along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health, the Niagara County Department of Health (NCDOH) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year. According to the CDC, it is recommended to receive the flu shot by the end of October, but vaccination after that will still provide protection for the duration of the flu season. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
The New York State Department of Health tracks influenza surveillance from October to the following May.
“For the second consecutive week, flu is widespread throughout the state, including Niagara County,” Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said. “We have seen a significant increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed cases, and the number of people hospitalized statewide from last week.”
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.
There are many reasons to get a flu vaccine each year: Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick; it has been shown to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick; and flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization. Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people who are at higher risk for flu complications and hospitalization, including adults 65 years and older, children younger than 2 years old, pregnant women, people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and people with chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disorders, and disease that result in compromised immune systems).
In addition to self-protection, the flu vaccine adds a layer of protection for our community members who are most vulnerable to the flu. People who care for family members at home, people who spend time with pregnant women and infants, and people who work in child care settings, group homes, other congregate living settings, nursing homes, health care facilities and schools should make flu vaccination a priority.
“In addition to vaccination, healthy behaviors to prevent the spread of the flu are also effective at prevention of other respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus),” Stapleton said. “To help protect the health of our community, it is important to stay home when you are sick; wash your hands often; cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing; wear a mask when appropriate; and practice social distancing.”
Flu shots are widely available in the community and may be administered at the same time as the coronavirus vaccine. To receive a flu shot, contact your local health care provider or pharmacy, visit the NCDOH COVID-19/flu vaccination schedule, or visit www.vaccinefinder.org. For more information about influenza (flu) 2022-23 season, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2022-2023.htm.