By Maggie Pruitt
The beginning of October usually brings flu season, but the flu showed up a little early this year.
According to the Brazos County Health Department, between Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, there were 248 cases of Influenza A reported in the area. Between Sept. 2 and Sept. 6, 114 more cases were reported for a total of 362 cases reported in just 12 days.
“Typically we see flu season last from October to March with a peak in late December/early January,” says Brazos County Health Department Educator Sara Mendez, “but this 2015-2016 year we saw it peak in April. The numbers [of flu cases] died down in the summer but then on August 26 we saw a cluster of cases with [Texas] A&M [University] students.”
Mendez explained that cases in an isolated area spread faster because people are in close contact with each other. If they touch the same doorknob or pen, germs spread very quickly.
According to www.cdc.gov, most experts believe the flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk.
To prevent these germs from spreading, Mendez recommends that people suffering from symptoms similar to flu symptoms stay home, wash hands, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper sleeve.
People who have the flu often experience symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. It is most contagious one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick according to www.cdc.gov.
“We recommend the flu vaccine every year before the end of October,” says Mendez. “People who are over the age of 65 should get a higher dose of the vaccine because they are the most at risk due to their tendency to have weaker immune systems, although anyone 6 months and older can have their flu shot.”
The flu shot is now available at the Brazos County Health Department for $25 and is offered during regular vaccination hours listed on www.brazoshealth.org. Anyone can get the flu shot at the health department. People who are eligible to receive all other vaccines at BCHD include uninsured adults older than 19 and children who are uninsured or have Medicaid. Up to date immunization schedules for children and adults can be found at dshs.texas.gov.
Along with the flu vaccination, adults who are 50 years old and older should have updated vaccinations for shingles and pneumonia. According to Nurse Julie Anderson, RN, FNP-C, people more than 50 years old should have two pneumococcal vaccines.
For adults 65 years of age or older without high-risk conditions, a six to 12-month interval is recommended between PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines, according to Anderson. However, she adds, for adults with certain high-risk conditions, it is recommended to get your PCR13 vaccine first, followed by PPSV23 eight weeks later.
Anderson says seniors should be getting vaccines especially before going into a planned surgery. Recovery after surgery can compromise the body’s immune system, so by getting vaccines beforehand, one can remain protected from getting sick.
For new grandparents, Anderson recommends the Tdap vaccine, which prevents whooping cough, so when grandparents are around new babies, they will not pass on the illness to their grandchild.
By getting vaccines for the flu and other diseases, you can prevent yourself and others from becoming sick. Get yours today!