This season’s flu vaccine may not be as effective as some in the past, but local health officials still urge residents to receive it.
Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, said the flu shot and nasal mist don’t protect against one of the influenza strains called H3N2.
That strain tends to cause more deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the elderly, according to a report by The Associated Press.
But Montgomery said individuals are better off with some protection.
The health department
offers the quadrivalent vaccine, which typically would protect against four strains of the flu. This season, it will protect against three, Montgomery said.
“A flu shot covering as many strains as possible is better than not,” she said.
The flu, not to be mistaken for what commonly is called stomach flu, can cause symptoms of coughing, fever, chills and can lead to pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since there is no cure for the flu, if the illness continues to worsen, it can be life-threatening, said Shara Calhoun, public health nurse.
Montgomery said the reason for the flu vaccine’s decrease in its potency level is because the H3N2 strain had morphed since the vaccine was developed and rolled out for this year.
Each year, the vaccine is made to protect against the viruses researchers think are likely to cause the disease. It tends to be produced about 12 months in advance, she said.
The same goes for the nasal spray, which is recommended this year for children ages 2 to 8. That’s because recent studies by the CDC have shown it might work better than the shot for younger children.
With the situation at hand, Montgomery said she couldn’t predict this year’s flu season. She said the health
department, along with Schneck Medical Center, will continue to monitor it.
If anything, she suggests people increase their precautions against the illness — particularly right now.
Not only does flu activity most commonly peak in the U.S. between December and February, according to the CDC, but Montgomery said this is the time when large groups of people tend to get together indoors.
“It always hits in the holiday season,” Montgomery said.
The flu shot, which is available for those ages 6 months and older, takes about two weeks to kick in.
Montgomery said it’s important for people to wash their hands frequently, cover their mouths when coughing, throw away used tissues and eat properly.
If a person is not feeling well, he or she shouldn’t take the chance to spread it to others by going to work or social activities, she said.
The cost for both flu vaccines, which can offer protection for as long as a year, is $30 at the health department. An appointment is recommended.
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“A flu shot covering as many strains as possible is better than not,” said Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department
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For information, contact the Jackson County Health Department at 812-522-6474.