It’s almost flu season again and local doctors are recommending annual flu shots to reduce the risk of illness, hospitalization, missed work or school or even death.
Flu season begins each year as early as October and last flu season led to 8,661 hospitalizations in Ohio.
Dr. F. Stuart Leeds of Wright State Physicians said the annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect from the flu, particularly for vulnerable populations like young children or adults over 50 years old. He said the vaccinations are available now and its best to get it as soon as possible, preferably before the end of October.
Leeds said people should not wait until the virus is already spreading in the area before they get the vaccine.
“That’s a dangerous game of viral roulette,” said Leeds.
Last year flu season hospitalizations started to increase around December, peaked the last week of February with 115 hospitalizations in the region.
“It can go as long as April or May, especially in Ohio where we seem to get a late wave of flu in recent years,” Leeds said.
It takes two weeks from the time a person gets vaccinated until antibodies develop to help protect their body.
The CDC also advises some of the populations who are at high risk and most recommended to get flu shots include young children, adults older than 50 years old, anyone with a compromised immune system, pregnant women, people with obesity, people in nursing homes and caregivers of people at high risk.
Leeds emphasized that the flu not only can mean serious complications, there are also flu-related deaths every year.
“I think that’s what people don’t truly understand is that the flu kills people,” he said.
Nasal spray should not be used this season and only injectable vaccines are expected to be effective this year.
For patients older than 65 years old, Leeds said it is worth asking providers if there are high dose vaccines available, which he said one study showed might be more effective, though patients should take what’s available.
“Again, if your doctor doesn’t have high doses, I wouldn’t wait around,” he said.
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Leeds also said this year, the CDC changed its recommendation for people with egg allergies, now saying that even people with severe reactions like hives can now get the vaccine, though should get it in a medical office setting and not at a pharmacy.
Pharmacies, clinics, and some workplaces already have the vaccines available. Providers with Kettering Physician Network, Premier Physician Network and Wright State Physicians can all also administer flu vaccines. Wright State Physicians Family Medicine will have a walk-in flu clinic 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 1 at 725 University Blvd.
If a person does get the flu, the FDA approved this month the first generic version of Tamiflu, making flu treatment cheaper and more accessible. Like the branded version, the generic is for treating patients within 48 hours of when flu-like symptoms appear, like fevers, chills, coughing, muscle aches, congestion, headaches and fatigue.
If a person starts to get flu symptoms, Leeds said they should contact their doctor right away so they can get treated within the 48 hour window.