More than halfway through October there have already been diagnosed cases of influenza in the Roaring Fork Valley and the Pitkin County Public Health Department is working to raise awareness about how to avoid the flu by practicing proper hygiene (hand washing) and the benefits of getting a flu vaccine.
Last year’s flu season broke records in the number of people across the nation who were hospitalized and died from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) reports that over 80,000 people died of flu, and 900,000 were hospitalized. In fact, more than a dozen Pitkin County residents ended up in the hospital with the flu last flu season. And already this year, an unvaccinated child died of influenza B in Florida.
“Even if you don’t get the flu shot for yourself, you should get it because it will keep our friends, family and loved ones from getting sick,” said Director of Pitkin County Public Health, Karen Koenemann.
According to the CDC, The composition of the 2018-2019 flu shot will be slightly different from last season's flu shot. Specifically, there will be a different strain of the H3N2 virus and a different strain of the influenza B virus in this season's flu shot, compared with last season's shot.
Mild side effects from the flu shot include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, low-grade fever, and aches. Only about 1 percent to 2 percent of people who get a flu shot will have fever as a side effect, Schaffner said.
“The benefits of getting a flu vaccine far outweigh the minuscule possibility of serious side effects,” Koenemann said.
According to the CDC, those who are most vulnerable (those over 65, immunocompromised, pregnant and the very young) are the ones most likely to get very sick or die from the flu. Over half of hospitalized influenza cases are over the age of 65, while children are also at increased risk of complications from the flu. Last season, 181 children across the United States died from influenza. The majority (80%) of these children did not receive an annual flu shot before catching the flu.
Babies under six months and severely immunocompromised individuals simply cannot get the shot. Pregnant women can and should get the shot, but those who don’t are doubly liable. Influenza often causes a fever, which can damage a growing fetus. Older adults often die from influenza and it’s side effects such as pneumonia.
“You may not know anyone who has been hospitalized for an influenza infection; however, you pass by people every single day who are vulnerable,” said Koenemann. “A sneeze on the bus, touch of a door handle, not washing your hands can all increase your risk, as well as the risk to others. So, get the flu shot for you. Get the flu shot for everyone.”
Flu shots are available locally at Community Health Services, Clarks Market and Carl’s pharmacies, or at City Markets valley-wide. To find all locations for flu shots go to www.vaccinefinder.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Koenemann - Public Health Director - 970-429-6171,