Flu shots advised with severe flu season concerns

by Kate Evans

Flu season is underway with an early start here and in many parts of the country. COVID-19 cases remain constant in the area. Health officials nationwide are concerned about a severe flu season occurring this year and are advising everyone to protect themselves and their family by getting their annual flu shot now. Get your COVID-19 vaccination/updated COVID booster shot too.

Health officials are urging everyone six months and older to get their annual seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as possible, especially if they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. Typically flu season peaks between December and March each year and can last as late as May.

Flu is here

Tonya Trembly of River Bend Family Medicine in Hancock said that they’ve seen three to five flu cases in the past couple of weeks. COVID-19 cases are holding steady at two to four cases a week. Some patients have gone to the emergency room for their symptoms and are calling for follow-up care, she noted.

They’ve also been seeing a lot of influenza-like illness (100 degree fever or higher, cough and/or sore throat), Trembly said.

River Bend Family Medicine Physician Dr. Matthew Hahn advised people to get their COVID vaccine/booster and flu shots, to wear masks when in a group of people in- doors and to continue to be cautious.

The Morgan County Health Department recommended getting tested if you have COVID symptoms and wearing a mask if you have symptoms, test positive or have been exposed to some- one with COVID.

COVID statistics

Morgan County is currently at a low level for COVID-19 infection. The county had 11 new COVID cases and eight active COVID cases as of Monday, October 31.

Morgan County has seen a total of 4,192 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 741 probable cases. Some 4,850 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. Morgan

County has had a total of 75 deaths from COVID-19.

Morgan County has 33.7% of its population fully vaccinated from COVID-19 and 17.5% have received their COVID booster doses.

Washington County has had a total of 602 deaths from COVID-19 and 39,528 con- firmed COVID cases as of October 31. Washington County has 61.4% of its population fully vaccinated.

COVID boosters, other

An updated COVID booster shot is available now that protects against the newer COVID BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants. To be eligible, you must have had your last COVID booster at least eight weeks ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone stay up-to-date with the COVID- 19 vaccinations and booster shots for their age group.

Pneumonia vaccines are also recommended for children and adults of all ages. Children and people 65 years of age and older are most susceptible to pneumonia.

Flu vaccine

Getting a flu vaccine pre- vents flu-related complications, missed work and school days and many flu-re- lated hospitalizations and deaths each year.

According to the CDC, get- ting a flu vaccine is important to protect yourself and those around you from the flu and to help reduce the strain on the healthcare system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember that it takes around two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection from the flu.

Flu, pneumonia and COVID-19 vaccines are available at area pharmacies, health departments and family physician offices.

A high-dose influenza vaccine is recommended for those age 65 and older due to their lower immunity.

Flu symptoms

Flu symptoms are fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle or body aches, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, which is more common in children.

Complications, high risk

Influenza can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Complications can require hospitalization and become life-threatening or fatal. Influenza can also worsen chronic medical conditions like asthma or congestive heart disease.

Individuals at high risk of developing flu complications include children under age two and age five, adults over 50 years old, especially those 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and nursing home and long-term care facility residents.

Others at high risk include those with asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney or liver dis- orders and those with weakened or suppressed immune systems.