With the arrival of cooler temperatures and fall colors also means the arrival of flu season. Health officials are not sure of when the first cases will be reported, but it’s likely right around the corner. As the flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to be effective, it’s important to get it sooner rather than later. The vaccine is recommended for anyone over the age of six months.
There’s no prediction of how severe flu season will be this year in Oregon. Last year in Oregon, 19,000 people tested positive for the infection, and two children died. Warning signs in children include trouble breathing or fast breathing; not drinking enough fluids; bluish skin color; a fever with a rash; and not waking up or being interactive. Children, adults over the age of 65, people with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems and women are the most vulnerable to severe illness.
The flu, or influenza, is a virus which causes mild to severe respiratory illness. In the most severe cases, it can lead to hospitalization or death. It kills thousands of people in the United States every year; the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 80,000 died from the flu last year, making it the deadliest flu season in a decade.
Deciding not to get a vaccine puts the population as a whole at a risk. There are people unable to get vaccines for various health reasons. Those groups rely on herd immunity to stay healthy. Herd immunity occurs when a large group of people has become immune to an illness or disease, thereby protecting the people who aren’t immune as they cannot catch it from the immune group.
In addition to getting a flu shot, which is the most effective form of prevention, there are other ways to prevent getting the flu. These include covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you sneeze; avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose; wash your hands often with soap and hot water; clean frequently used surfaces, like your phone, computer and kitchen counter; and stay home from school or work if you’re feeling ill.
The vaccine is readily available from health providers, pharmacies and clinics across the states. On most health plans, it’s free or low cost. Visit www.flu.oregon.gov and use the flu vaccine finder tool to find the nearest flu vaccine clinic to you.