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It's Not Too Late to Get Your Flu Shot

Flu season arrived early this year, and has been widespread throughout California and Nevada. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that so far this season there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu. The majority of cases are in patients under the age of 50, however deaths from influenza are highest in patients over the age of 65. Health officials are warning that with this year’s influenza virus reaching levels typically seen later in the season, the importance of getting a flu shot this year cannot be overstated.

The flu is preventable, but a vaccination is needed every year to maintain the greatest level of protection. Although the flu shot cannot guarantee you won’t get influenza, those who do get vaccinated typically experience less-severe symptoms and recover more quickly than if they had not received their annual immunization.

Getting vaccinated is the best defense against the flu. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity, so don’t delay getting a flu shot. There are plenty of vaccines available at local pharmacies and primary care offices, and it is not too late in the season to get a flu shot.

Besides getting immunized, you can also take some other simple steps to protect yourself: stay away from people who are sick; cover coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or disposable tissue; wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and if you suspect you or your child have influenza, stay home.

Antiviral medications are an important adjunct to the flu vaccine for controlling influenza. Almost all (more than 99 percent!) of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four federally-approved influenza antiviral medications recommended for use in the U.S. this season. Get a diagnosis to confirm if you do have the flu by seeing your primary care provider immediately, or contacting Barton Urgent Care at 775.589.8900.

Lindsay Smith, BSN, RN is the Infection Control Nurse at Barton Health.