Washtenaw County Public Health reminds residents that it’s not too late to vaccinate against flu. The week of Dec. 4-10 is this year’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, and is an optimal time for everyone six months and older to get their flu shot before the holidays. Vaccination is the best way to reduce the severity and spread of illness in our community. Locally, flu shots are available at places like Saline Pharmacy, located at Bennett and Ann Arbor Street.
Seasonal flu is unpredictable, but it will likely cause the highest rates of illness in late December through February. Sporadic cases of influenza have already been reported locally, including several flu-related hospitalizations.
“The flu is more than a bad cold,” says Jessie Kimbrough Marshall, MD, MPH, medical director for Washtenaw County Public Health. “Influenza is a highly infectious virus that can lead to serious illness and even death. Getting vaccinated protects you and others around you who may have a higher risk of serious illness and complications.”
How bad was last year’s flu season?
The 2015-2016 flu season was moderately severe in Washtenaw County. There were 210 flu-related hospitalizations in the county, and four flu-related deaths. Almost all adults hospitalized had a high-risk underlying health condition, most frequently obesity.
Washtenaw County had the best overall vaccination rate in the state of 37 percent, compared to the 25 percent state average. Yet, 18-24 year olds only placed 13th among their peers in flu vaccination rates, as measured by the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR). The rate of vaccination in 5-12 year olds also fell, from 50 percent in the 2013-2014 season, to 40 percent in 2015-16.
How to prepare for the 2016-2017 flu season
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your community from the flu is get vaccinated, and this year that means getting the shot. Last year, there was a stark difference in effectiveness between the flu shot and the nasal spray. The nasal spray was only effective in three percent of 2-17 year olds, compared to the shot’s 63 percent effectiveness. Therefore, the nasal spray is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. While some children may be upset about receiving a flu shot, their health will be better protected during this flu season.
Aside from vaccination, it is also vital to stay home if you are sick, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands often using soap and warm water, and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
Symptoms of the flu include: coughing, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, sore throat, headache, fatigue, fever and/or chills. The flu can affect anyone, but older adults, children and individuals with chronic health conditions are at greater risk for severe complications from flu. Flu is a contagious illness that can be spread person to person through droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks.
Please see the Washtenaw County Public Health website for ongoing information and surveillance on this year’s flu season.
Where to get vaccinated
Washtenaw County Public Health offers vaccines to children and adults regardless of insurance status or income. Call 734-544-6700 to schedule an appointment. Cost for the flu shot is $25 for children and $30 for adults. More information is available on our Flu Vaccine web page.
Flu vaccine is also widely available at area medical offices, pharmacies and community events. See http://flushot.healthmap.org/ for local options.