The College Stresses the Importance of Flu Shots as Start of Flu Season Nears

Published on 09 October 2017

As the country of Australia continues to feel the effects of a dangerous flu season that has sickened more than 166,000 people, the College is encouraging area residents to get their flu shots now to ensure that they are ready for what could be a severe flu season in the St. Louis area and nationwide.

 According to the Australian Department of Health’s Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, the country has seen 2 1/2 times the number of laboratory confirmed notifications of Influenza A compared with the same time last year. The highest rates have occurred in adults age 80 and older, and in young children between the ages of 5 and 9. 

“Often, the severity of the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere is an indicator of the type of season we’ll have in the U.S.,” said Nicole Gattas, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, associate professor of pharmacy practice. “Since the flu season has been a severe one in Australia, there is a chance that a bad season could be on tap for the U.S. as well.”

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness characterized by a variety of symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, headaches and fatigue. With the U.S. flu season typically beginning in mid-to-late October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals get their flu shot as early as possible so they are protected before the flu begins to spread in their community.

“Once a shot is given, it takes about two weeks to become effective, so individuals should take that into consideration as they make plans to get their shots,” said Gattas. “While the U.S. flu season doesn’t usually reach its peak until early winter, it’s always best to get vaccinated early so that the body can build up immunity before the season begins. Ideally, we like to see patients get their shots no later than Halloween.”

CDC guidelines suggest that everyone over 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine annually. The shot is especially important for those with a high-risk for developing flu-related complications. These groups include children younger than 5, adults aged 65 or older, pregnant women and those with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes or other chronic conditions.

“Influenza is a serious disease that can be deadly,” said Gattas. “Since every flu season is so different, it is hard to predict exactly how individuals will be affected and which flu strains will cause the most illnesses. The best way for individuals to protect themselves from the flu is to get a flu shot.”

In the coming weeks, free flu shots will be available at a variety of locations across the St. Louis area. Individuals can also get shots at their physician’s office, area medical clinics and local pharmacies.

“With the majority of community pharmacies now offering immunization services, the local pharmacy can be a very convenient place to go for a flu shot,” said Gattas. “But, regardless of the location, the important thing is for area residents to get immunized.”

 

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