Flu season is upon us — KDMC doc says get your vaccine

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The year 2020’s mild flu season due to COVID-19 restrictions might mean this year’s season could be a dangerous one.

That’s one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that all vaccines this year will be “quadrivalent” – designed to protect against four different flu viruses.

The CDC’s fears that “reduced population immunity could spell an early and severe flu season” stems from the lessened flu virus activity since March 2020.

Flu vaccinations are deemed even more important this season because studies suggest “increased flu-related hospitalizations and deaths can be mitigated if vaccination rates are between 20-50 percent higher than those in recent flu seasons,” said scientists at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Public Health in a recent study.

“As COVID-19 containment measures — such as masking, distancing and school closures — are relaxed around the world, we’re seeing a fierce resurgence of other respiratory viruses, which does not bode well for the coming flu season,” said Dr. Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory.

Dr. Blaine Britt of King’s Daughters Medical Clinic says its hard to predict the severity of this year’s flu season and he wouldn’t even “venture to guess at this point.” However, he said, “last year we saw very little flu, but we should be prepared to see more this year. Hand washing, social distancing, masks and isolating yourself when you think you are sick are things that will help stop the spread of most any respiratory virus. So while people were doing that to stop the spread of COVID-19, a sort of unintended effect was it really shut down the spread of the flu.”

Britt notes that anyone 65 and older should be vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible. “Generally speaking, that is a higher risk category for complications of the flu, such as pneumonia that may lead to hospitalizations, and, in the worst cases, even death,” Britt added.

Britt said children under 5 are also at higher risk for complications of the flu and he highly recommends parents vaccinate their children.

“Others at lower risk for complications are also encouraged to get vaccinated against the flu, as it is a significant cause of discomfort,” he said. “You can feel pretty miserable with the flu, and you can decrease your odds of getting it by being vaccinated.”

And if you’ve been meaning to get a COVID-19 shot, you can get the flu shot at the same time, Britt said. “The CDC has said that it is OK to get both at the same time,” he added. “This includes COVID boosters shots than many of our high-risk patients are in the process of getting.”

Britt warned residents to take the flu season seriously. “After the mild flu season we had last year — and, honestly, a lot of ‘COVID fatigue’ that many may be feeling — it may be easy to forget that its out there,” he said. “If you find yourself getting sick and maybe running fever, you need to isolate yourself from others and get tested for both COVID and the flu.”

With about 200 million doses of influenza vaccine readied for the U.S. market, the CDC plans a media blitz about the importance of vaccination, how to get it and why to get it by the end of October.

And remember the old Benjamin Franklin phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” How pertinent that is today.

Don’t let the flu sneak up on you. Check online by typing in your zip code and the words “flu shot” for a location offering vaccinations near you. Or call your doctor to see if you can get your shot there.

 

Story by Angela Cutrer