The Centers for Disease Control is focusing on flu prevention this week as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week.
Complications with the flu result in nearly 23,000 deaths annually, according to reports from the CDC.
Louisville health officials said the best way to avoid the virus is prevention and a flu shot is the best method of prevention.
Dr. Ron Waldrige, physician executive with KentuckyOne Health, said the vaccine is recommended for everybody from “birth to 100 years old.”
“We encourage everyone to get flu vaccines,” he said.
Nearly 130 cases of flu have been reported in the Metro area this flu season and the number is expected to increase until mid-February, when many experts say the flu season begins to subside, said Dave Langdon, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness.
“So far, it is about an average season,” Langdon said.
He said everyone is susceptible to the flu, but certain groups of people are at higher risk.
Pregnant women, children younger than 2-years-old, people older than 50-years-old, anyone with chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes or other long term facilities are most likely to have serious complications with the flu, Langdon said.
A lot of people underestimate the impact of the flu and importance of taking preventative measures to stay healthy.
“Many of us think the flu is a nuisance, something that will lay us up for a few days, keep us out of work, something we want to avoid during the holidays,” he said. “It can also lead to very serious illness and in many cases death.”
Though some people believe the shot can cause the flu, this isn’t necessarily the case today due to the evolution of modern vaccines, Waldridge said.
“The newer strains are less likely to cause that,” he said.
Both Waldridge and Langdon said the vaccinations are safe for everyone, except residents who have had allergic reactions to the vaccine in the past and residents that are allergic to eggs.
Vaccines contain small traces of the flu virus and eggs are vital in the growth of the virus during vaccine production.
There are vaccines that contain no eggs, which are safe for those with egg allergies, but they are not readily available, Waldridge said.
Langdon said there will be adequate vaccination supplies this year, but recommends everyone to get a shot as soon as possible to avoid getting sick.
“It takes about two weeks for your body to develop full immunity to the flu,” he said. “People should definitely get one now, it’s not too late.”
Flu shots are being administered by appointment at Dixie Health Center at 7219 Dixie Highway, the Middletown Health Center at 200 Juneau Drive and the Newburg Health Center at 4810 Exeter Avenue. The vaccine is also available at grocery stores and pharmacies around the area. Officials recommend calling ahead no matter where you plan to go.
The cost for the vaccine varies, but Langdon said no one will be turned away for inability to pay. In addition to getting a shot, Waldridge recommends washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, keeping your hands away from your nose and mouth and isolating yourself if you feel ill.
“It goes back to what your mother used to tell you,” he said.
For more information about the flu and vaccinations, go here.
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