There’s still time

As peak flu season approaches, officials urge people to get vaccinated

A young woman receives a vaccine from a health care provider. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Judy Schmidt, acquired from Public Health Image Library)

MARQUETTE — While this year’s flu season has not yet reached its peak and flu has been reported as “regional” rather than “widespread” in Michigan by the state department of health and human services as of Friday, local health officials are encouraging the public to get vaccinated and practice flu prevention.

“Our peak of the flu season tends to be most commonly around January to February but we certainly recommend that people who have not been vaccinated consider getting the flu vaccine,” Marquette County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Teresa Frankovich said. “It takes about two weeks to be protected once you’ve been vaccinated — but there’s still plenty to for that to be effective during this flu season.”

While many may feel they don’t need the vaccine, Frankovich emphasized that even young and healthy people can become seriously ill with the flu and ensuing complications, making it important for anyone over six months old to get vaccinated because it is “the single best prevention strategy that we have for flu.”

“You’re protecting not just yourself, you’re protecting your family, your community,” she said. “The more flu that’s circulating in the community, the more contact people have with flu.”

Vaccination can increase the community’s immunity as a whole and help protect people who cannot get the vaccination, such those who have allergies to the flu vaccine or its ingredients and infants under six months old and, Frankovich said.

Flu vaccination materials used at the Marquette County Health Department are pictured. The health department is reminding the public about the importance of getting vaccinated this flu season and wants the community to know it still has flu vaccine available. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette County Health Department)

“Those infants are certainly at risk for coming into contact with flu and serious complications,” she said. “By getting vaccinated you help to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Furthermore, research has indicated this year’s flu vaccine is effective and a good match with the strains of flu that are circulating, Frankovich said, as the H1N1 strain of flu — which has been the predominant strain found in Michigan this year — was included in the vaccine.

“They start monitoring that as soon as the season begins and it looks like its a good match for what’s circulating in the community,” she said.

While it’s important for everyone to get the flu vaccine, certain populations, such as infants, young children and senior citizens, pregnant women and people who are immune compromised or suffering from a chronic disease, are highly encouraged to get the vaccine because of their high risk for more serious flu-related complications, Frankovich said.

“One important piece of research that came out just this fall, a very large study of over 2 million women demonstrated that flu vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization due to flu in pregnant women by about 40 percent,” she said.

For those who wish to get vaccinated, the Marquette County Health Department still has flu vaccine and can offer vaccinations, she said.

“People can simply call and schedule an appointment to come and get the vaccine,” she said, adding that flu shots are also available through many local health care providers and pharmacies.

It’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible, she said, as flu has been reported in counties across the Upper Peninsula and officials expect numbers to increase as the year continues.

“I know it’s surfaced in counties across the U.P. in the official reporting system,” she said. “My guess is we will see more, this is early for us in terms of a peak of cases, we’re likely to see more over the coming weeks in terms of influenza.”

With flu being reported in the area, recognizing the signs and symptoms of flu is important, she said, noting that the severity of symptoms is what differentiates the flu from the common cold.

“Influenza tends to be more pronounced, people get a fever, chills, coughing, congestion — you just feel sicker than you do with a common cold, some people describe that ‘hit by a bus feeling’,” she said.

For those who get sick, or are surrounded by someone who is ill, Frankovich offered a few recommendations.

“Stay home when you’re ill, cough into your sleeve, wash your hands frequently and particularly before touching your eyes, nose or mouth and before meals,” she said. “In households, if people are ill, doing some frequent cleaning of surfaces can help to decrease spread in the household, as well as doing things like coughing into your sleeve and getting rid of used tissues.”

Furthermore, if you’re worried about the flu symptoms or part of a population that’s particularly vulnerable to flu complications, it’s important to speak with your medical provider.

“If people are concerned about the severity or symptoms or if they have other health concerns, they should talk to their provider, there is medication that can be used to shorten the course of the flu and decrease its severity,” she said.

For more information on flu vaccinations at the health department, call the Marquette County Health Department at 906-475-9977.