Individuals Encouraged to Get Flu Shots as Flu Season Begins
Published on 03 October 2019
With the 2018-19 flu season ranking as one of the longest seasons in more than a decade, St. Louis College of Pharmacy is encouraging area residents to get their flu shots now to ensure they are prepared for the season to come.
While the 2018-19 flu season was classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of “moderate” severity, the season featured two separate waves of Influenza A sickness. The first wave, occurring between October and mid-February, was dominated by the H1N1 flu strain. The second wave of activity, happening from mid-February through mid-May, was highlighted by illness resulting from the H3N2 flu strain, which featured more severe symptoms than the H1N1 strain.
Despite being classified as a “moderate” season, the CDC estimates that the flu caused between 37.4 million and 42.9 million illnesses in the U.S. during the 2018-19 season, and resulted in between 531,000 to 647,000 hospitalizations and between 36,400 and 61,200 deaths.
“Last year’s flu season was less severe than the 2017-18 season, but it was also far longer, lasting well into May,” said Michelle Jeon, Pharm.D., BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the College. “Each season is very different, which makes it highly important for individuals to get a flu shot every year, and get it early, to make sure they are protected for whatever type of flu season lies ahead.”
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness characterized by a variety of symptoms including fever, cough, body aches, headaches and fatigue.
According to the CDC, influenza activity often begins to increase in October, and the season typically lasts through April. CDC recommendations suggest that everyone over six 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 five, 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 affect all of us, and for high-risk groups, the flu can result in serious illness, hospitalization and even death,” Jeon said. “This is why it’s so critical for people to get their shot annually, ideally before the end of October. It takes about two weeks for the shot to become effective, so it’s always best to get vaccinated early so the body can build up immunity before the flu season ramps up.”
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.
“Most community pharmacies now offer immunization services, so that can be a convenient option for those looking to get their flu shot,” said Jeon. “But, regardless of location, we can’t stress enough how important it is for area residents to get immunized.”
For more information on influenza and the flu shot, visit cdc.gov/flu.