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It’s not too late local health officials spread word about importance of getting flu shot

A health care provider prepares to deliver a vaccine. Local health officials are spreading the word about the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year and emphasize that it’s not too late to get one. Flu shots are still available at the Marquette County Health Department. (Stock photos from Pixabay)

MARQUETTE — With a recent poll by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago indicating around 37% of adults don’t plan to receive the flu shot this season, local health officials are spreading the word about the importance of getting vaccinated.

It’s critical to get vaccinated to protect yourself, your family and your community as a whole, Marquette County Health Department Interim Medical Director Dr. Kevin Piggott said, as immunized individuals are “more likely to mount an immediate immune response resulting in no illness or less severe illness,” meaning that “when fewer people are immunized, the likelihood of exposure and illness increases.”

“Receiving an influenza vaccination not only protects you, it protects others from becoming ill by reducing the likelihood of person to person transmission of the illness,” he said. “This is important, because other people may have conditions — heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, pregnancy, infants, etc. — or compromised immune systems that put them at risk of a more severe illness, including death, should they be exposed to influenza. Hopefully, people will be interested in protecting others as well as themselves and get immunized. Being immunized is not only about protecting one’s self, it is about protecting our family, friends and additional people to whom we come in contact.”

While some may believe they aren’t at risk of getting sick this season because they haven’t in the past, Piggot emphasized: “with influenza, like the stock market, past history does not predict the future.”

“Simply because one has not become ill in the past with influenza is no guarantee that he/she won’t become ill with it in the future,” he said. “When a person develops influenza, the spread of the virus by that individual generally begins before symptoms (such as) fever, chills, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache and/or fatigue. So, even if an infected individual is isolated once the symptoms of influenza are recognized, the potential for having exposed others already exists.”

A line of vaccine-filled vials is pictured. Getting a flu shot can help protect yourself and your community during flu season, local health officials said.

For those who fear complications or getting the flu following the vaccine, Piggott said: “millions of doses of influenza vaccine are administered every year and have been for decades with only rare complications of significance.”

“The most common side effect of a flu shot is soreness, swelling and or redness at the injection site,” he said. “Some people may experience symptoms of fatigue, low-grade temperatures, headache, and/or body aches which can be misinterpreted as ‘the flu shot gave me the flu.’ However, neither the flu shot nor nasal spray can cause illness/infection from influenza.”

While Piggott noted the flu shot isn’t always 100% effective — especially if the predicted pattern of strains used to create the vaccine doesn’t match the actual pattern of flu strains for the season — he likened the preventative measure to wearing a seatbelt.

“In some ways, choosing to get a flu shot is similar to choosing to wear seat belts when driving a motor vehicle. Fortunately, most of us have not been in a severe car accident,” he said. “But, relying on the fact that one has not been in a car accident to determine whether or not to wear a seat belt would be foolhardy. Unfortunately, seat belts do not always prevent a severe injury or death. Likewise, it would not be prudent to decide not to wear a seat belt based solely on the fact that it doesn’t always prevent a severe injury or death. Over and over, seat belts have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe injury and death if and when an individual is involved in a car collision. Likewise, influenza vaccination has repeatedly been shown to reduce the complications of influenza illness including death.”

Beyond getting immunized, there are a few more things that can be done to help stop the spread of the flu virus, he said.

“Don’t forget to wash your hands regularly/frequently, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and sleep adequately,” Piggott said. “Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth. If you do become ill, please stay home from work, school and going out in public places. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, not your hand, when coughing or sneezing, then discard the tissue and wash your hands.”

While there aren’t specific numbers available for Marquette County, Michigan as a whole is rated as having “regional flu activity,” as opposed to the “widespread flu activity” reported in most other states, according to the MDHHS’s Michigan Flu Focus report.

In Michigan, influenza B is predominant over influenza A, representing 65% and 35% of cases, respectively, Piggott said.

For those who would still like to get vaccinated, Piggott said the Marquette County Health Department still has flu vaccines available and continues to administer them.

Scheduling an appointment by calling 906-475-7844 is the preferred method, but walk-ins are accommodated, Piggott said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.