Last year’s flu season hit hard close to home and across the nation proving to be a deadly epidemic killing 80,000 Americans in late 2017 and early 2018. Flu season peaked in early 2018 here in western North Carolina with five times as many flu cases in January and twice as many in February than the same time the prior year.
Flu season is officially underway here in western North Carolina and while we hope this year’s isn’t as bad, it’s still imperative to take the right precautions to protect yourself, others and our community. This includes good hand hygiene, staying home if you are sick, seeking care immediately if you have symptoms and getting a flu shot.
Every year flu season comes around, we hear skeptics question the effectiveness of the flu shot.
Mission Health’s Marina MacNamara, MD, sets the record straight for this year’s flu vaccine:
Question: Why is a flu shot important?
Answer: The flu spreads easily and can be devastating to both an individual and a population. Many people die every year as a result of the flu; old and young individuals are especially susceptible. It’s recommended for everyone 6 months old and older to get a flu shot and those who are high risk, including pregnant women, the elderly, children between 6 months and 5 years of age, those with other health problems and those who work in healthcare.
Q: When should you get your flu vaccine?
A: The earlier the better. This will help protect the individual and the community as the flu begins to spread. Children can get the flu vaccine as early as 6 months old. If it’s the first time getting one, the child will get one vaccine and then a second one a month later. The CDC recommends individuals who are 6 months or older get vaccinated by the end of October if possible – however, it’s never too late to get a flu shot, no matter the age.
Q: Last year, the flu shot mist was a no-go. CDC says it might be an okay option now. Do you recommend one over the other?
A: Last year, flu mist wasn’t as effective as the flu shot. The flu virus changes rapidly so a flu vaccine is made before each flu season to determine what will be most prevalent. Ultimately, your doctor will help determine which option is best for you.
Q: Where can individuals get a flu shot?
A: You can contact your primary care office, visit one of the four Mission My Care Now locations or a local pharmacy or grocery store. Mission My Care Now offers walk-ins, weekend and extended hours. Find a My Care Now location near you at missionmycarenow.org.
As we have seen in recent years, the flu is serious and not to be taken lightly. While it’s not perfect, the annual flu vaccine is the most effective defense to help lessen the severity of its impact and duration – and the time to get one is now.
Marina MacNamara, MD, is a primary care provider at Mission Health Center – Haywood