It’s almost October. Have you thought about scheduling your flu vaccine yet? Monongalia County Health Department’s Clinical Services will begin administering vaccines for influenza on Tuesday. You can call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment to get one.
October is considered the sweet spot — the ideal time frame — by MCHD’s public health nurses for people to be inoculated against the flu. Any earlier, and you risk your protection waning before flu season is over. In West Virginia, flu can last until April and sometimes even May.
Any later, and you risk getting together with family and friends when holiday celebrations commence near the end of November in closed quarters as the weather is getting colder, just in time to exchange germs along with gifts.
It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to become fully effective, so you don’t want to wait too long.
That said, at MCHD Clinical Services, we also like to say it’s never too late to get your flu shot, even if it’s December or January. But you’re risking getting the flu during that time period. At best, you’ll just miss out on work and some holiday cheer. At worst, you could become very sick and develop complications, such as pneumonia.
And, as Dr. Diane K. Gross, MCHD’s regional epidemiologist told a class last year at West Virginia University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the effects of the flu vaccine do not last from year to year.
“You may have some antibody protection” from last year’s shot, but the boost generally waxes and then wanes within about six months. Because of the approaching weather and holiday season, as well as that flu usually is winding down by or in April, that makes October the most logical time to get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that flu activity is low right now. According to CDC surveillance, in a chart that dates back five years, flu usually begins in the fall with cases spiking around December. Two years ago, we experienced a bad flu season. Last year’s was milder.
It is recommended that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. Children, older people and those with conditions that compromise their immune system are especially vulnerable to flu and should be inoculated. Also, pregnant women should vaccinate for two — not only for themselves but also for their babies, who cannot get inoculated during their first six months. And, people 65 and older might want to consider the Fluzone high-dose vaccine that offers four times the antigen of the standard dose.
In addition to getting a flu shot, there are other actions that help you avoid getting sick. These are commonsense habits that people should practice anyway. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with warm water and soap, for about the length of time that it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Keep surfaces in your home and office clean. Avoid people who are sick.
If you do come down with flu, ask your doctor about antivirals, especially if you are elderly or have underlying health conditions that could put you at increased risk of severe disease. Administered quickly enough, they can help lessen the length and severity of a bout with flu.
Also, if you get sick, stay home from work. If you really need to seek medical attention, do so, either to get antivirals or if you develop a secondary infection that could require antibiotics. But otherwise, the cure for flu without complications is generally rest, fluids and time. Antibiotics do not help you recover from a flu virus.
Please consider scheduling your flu vaccine now. You can get one at your doctor’s office or at MCHD Clinical Services. Once again, call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment.
Contact Mary Wade Triplett at 304-598-5152 or at MaryWade.Triplett@wv.gov. Contact MCHD at 304-598-5100 and find out more about MCHD at monchd.org.