MARQUETTE - As cooling temperatures herald in the start of the influenza season, those in Marquette County should consider getting a flu shot soon, according to experts.
"The peak time for us for flu is February," said Corrine Brownell, the community and clinical services director at the Marquette County Health Department. "But in Michigan, we now have confirmed cases of influenza. So it's starting."
Brownell stressed the importance of getting a flu shot for anyone, regardless of age or health.
Northern Michigan University student nurse Adam Burri fills a syringe with the flu vaccine at a flu clinic conducted by the senior center in Marquette. (Journal file photo)
Her concern is that people will deem it unnecessary to get a flu shot this year, as flu outbreaks haven't been bad or very widespread during the past couple of flu seasons.
In fact, she said, it may be more important for people to get a shot this year.
"It's probably even more important this year," she said. "In fact, when people get less persistent about getting the vaccine, that's often when (more serious outbreaks occur)."
Each year, scientists, and those in the field identify the three strains of the common influenza virus that are most likely to spread in the coming season. The vaccination then focuses on those three strains.
"They look what's happening worldwide," Brownell said. "They look at the strains that are most prevalent throughout the whole world."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viruses are constantly changing and it is common for new strains to appear each year.
Brownell said the only way to gauge the success or failure of a given year's vaccine is to look at the spread of influenza during that time. The vaccine from the past two years, she said, seem to have been quite effective.
The health department has held a handful of flu shot clinics this fall, often at area senior centers. However, no others are planned this year, beyond the typical in-school vaccinations for students.
Still, Brownell said people can call the department - at 475-7844 - to schedule a shot. Vaccinations cost $25, or $8 through the Vaccines for Children program. Medicare and Medicaid are both accepted.
Attendance at the MCHD's flu shot clinics has been down this year, but Brownell said she thinks area residents are still getting shots.
"I think that the flu vaccine is available so many other places, compared to what it was three years ago," she said. "You couldn't walk into the pharmacy and get a flu shot, and now you can do that."
According to the CDC, everyone older than 6 months should get an influenza vaccination. The groups at the highest risk include adults aged 65 and over, children younger than 5, pregnant women and people with asthma, diabetes, cancer, HIV or AIDS.
"Those risk groups are always there," Brownell said. "It's always the very young and the very old and the chronically ill."
The CDC also suggests avoiding those sick with the flu and washing hands to reduce the spread of germs; It is suggested that those sick with the flu stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the virus.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.