INDIANAPOLIS — It’s almost flu season and state health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to get vaccinated against influenza soon as cases begin emerging.
“Although we can’t predict how severe our flu season will be, we are already seeing influenza activity in Indiana, so it’s important that Hoosiers take steps quickly to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box.
“Flu can be deadly, especially in vulnerable populations, so the time to take those protective measures is now.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months – “flu season.” Flu activity often begins to increase in October and November, and peaks between December and February. It can last as late as May.
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Box said that because infants under 6 months can’t be vaccinated, it’s important that anyone in a household where a young baby lives or visits get a flu shot to protect the child. Healthcare workers also are urged to get a flu vaccine to reduce their risk of transmitting illness to their patients.
There will be some changes to the vaccines this year, according to the CDC, which says the flu vaccines are updated to better match viruses expected to be circulating in the United States.
The (H1N1) and (H3N2) vaccine components have been updated, and all regular-dose and recombinant flu shots will be quadrivalent. No trivalent flu shots will be available this season. All four of the vaccine viruses used to produce cell-grown flu vaccine will have been grown in cells, not eggs, according to the CDC.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so the CDC recommends vaccination by the end of October, though children who require two doses should get the first as early as possible.
Flu shots can be obtained through primary care providers and many pharmacies. To find the nearest location to get a flu shot, Hoosiers can go to the Indiana Department of Public Health’s vaccinefinder.org/.
Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract spread by respiratory droplets released when infected people cough or sneeze nearby or when people touch surfaces or objects contaminated with those droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death. Since the 2014-15 flu season, nearly 800 Hoosiers have died of flu-related illness. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immunocompromised, and the elderly. It is especially important for these individuals to be vaccinated each year.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
n fever of 100° Fahrenheit or greater
n muscle aches
n sore throat
n runny or stuffy nose
People can help prevent the spread of flu by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands, and staying home when sick.
Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:
n Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
n Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a disposable tissue.
n Contain: Stay home from school or work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
To learn more about influenza or to view the ISDH weekly flu report, which will be updated each Friday beginning Oct. 11, go to www.in.gov/isdh/25462.htm.
—From staff reports