Flu season is coming: Vaccine available
By Nick Longworth
That scratch in your throat you think is probably seasonal allergies might not be at all; it might be something far more serious.
Every year like clockwork, the flu season comes to the forefront of public health issues. Many people will suffer from the influenza virus – often referred to as “the flu” – which can cause some infected patients to suffer from serious respiratory illness.
“We’re not talking about the stomach flu,” Raeann Mayer, Community Health Manager for St. Joseph’s Area Health Services said.
“It can start out with a simple sore throat and mild fever and evolve into a serious and sometimes life-threatening illness,” said Mayer.
For many patients, the price of ignoring precautionary vaccination for influenza could far outweigh the cost of a single vaccine.
Those considered to be patients that have a high-risk for infection are those with autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses, the elderly and infants.
People considered at high-risk are encouraged to exercise extreme caution as to avoid contracting a possibly life-threatening infection, which could potentially lead to hospitalization.
“The cost for the vaccine shot itself is usually around $20-35, but a lot of times insurance companies will help with the cost,” said Mayer.
“Most companies will also help defray the cost. With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act being implemented this season, it should hopefully make it even easier to obtain the shot. You have to think, it’s very affordable considering what could happen if you leave it to chance,” said Mayer.
Those not particularly fond of frequenting doctor’s offices are also covered this year.
As public information about vaccination has spread over the past few years, the convenience and availability of treatment has increased with it.
Local stores such as Walmart and Walgreens will be offering the vaccine. Other retail outlets and worksite facilities will be offering vaccination as well.
“Instead of holding large groups of people in clinics, people are now able to get vaccinated at their convenience,” said Mayer. “If you’re at the store already you should go ahead and do it.”
Even those generally regarded as low-risk candidates are encouraged to go ahead with vaccination still.
“(The problem is) people out in the general population could just as easy pass (Influenza) on to someone else who may be at high risk without even knowing it. The vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, so we need to make sure that what does get out there (in the public) doesn’t get widely spread,” said Mayer.
Unique to this year’s defense is a hybrid Influenza shot, covering four different strains within one dose. It is believed to be more effective than previous versions of vaccination.
Even with the vaccination widely available, Mayer warns people still need to practice safe habits and exercise caution when in public places.
“Situations such as churches and school we need to be really careful about. If you are sick, stay home,” said Mayer.
“If you start to feel achy, maybe start running a little temperature, just stay home. Cover your cough and cough into your elbow. Get lots of rest and eat well. Little things can help,” said Mayer.
The Influenza vaccination shot will be available the entire flu season, from now until mid-May, at which point it will be gradually phased out.
Those interested are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider about options available.
“We just want to do the best job we can at getting people protected,” said Mayer.
* In healthy adults, the flu vaccine protects over half of the people who get it.
* Vaccinations are safe and constantly monitored for issues that may arise. With over 100 million dosed used in the U.S. each year, flu vaccinations have an excellent safety record.
* The protection of a flu shot decreases throughout the course of a year, so it is recommended being done annually.