There are worse things, but waking up on Christmas Day morning and struggling to get out of bed because of headache, muscle pain and fever is bad enough. Instead of joining the family for opening gifts, you hunker down between the sheets for warmth and think I should have got a flu shot.
Fortunately it’s mid-November, which means there’s still time to get vaccinated before the height of the influenza season possibly hits during the Holidays. But time is running out, health officials warn.
The 2019-20 influenza season officially began on Oct. 1 and runs through next spring. As reported in last Thursday’s edition, flu cases across the U.S. remain low. Also, the Utah Department of Health reports only sporadic cases across the state. But because influenza typically peaks in December and January, it’s highly recommended that people get vaccinated now, health officials say.
Why the urgency? It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work with the body’s natural defenses to produce antibodies that can ward off infection. Another reason?: Whenever the flu hits the state hard, Tooele County usually isn’t spared, like the 2013-14 flu season during which thousands of county residents got sick.
To get more antibodies built up in the community, the Tooele County Health Department and Tooele County School District combined efforts last month to vaccinate more than 2,000 students. That effort continues with citizens urged to visit their health care provider, pharmacist or the county health department to get vaccinated. The cost for the shot at the health department without insurance is $30.
Well known flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, aches, headaches and fatigue. Children may also experience vomiting and diarrhea. According to the CDC, most infected persons recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some may develop possibly life-threatening complications like pneumonia.
Diligent hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, and covering one’s nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing, can greatly slow the spread of infection. Also, frequent cleaning of commonly used surfaces, like door handles and computer keyboards, helps to reduce transmission. And those who become ill should stay home from school or work to avoid infecting others.
But getting vaccinated remains the biggest help citizens can do to cut back influenza’s threat. Health officials say the more a community is immunized, the flu’s ability to spread is reduced and helps create a stronger barrier of protection for citizens who cannot get vaccinated or whose lives are at risk if infected.
According to the CDC, unless excluded by a physician, everyone over six months of age should be immunized once a year. That’s how it’s been since the 1930s when the first flu vaccinations were developed in a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan and the U.S. Army.
For more information about the flu and vaccinations, call the county health department at 435-277-2301 or visit tooelehealth.org. Additional information about influenza, prevention, treatment and the 2019-20 influenza season is available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov. The Utah Department of Health’s website at health.utah.gov is also an information resource, and tracks flu cases across the state on a weekly basis.