Health professionals strongly encourage flu vaccines as season hits its peak

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Mississippi State Department of Health has issued a press release advising Mississippians to get their flu shots in preparation for the peak of this year’s flu season. The flu has spread throughout the state and is reportedly increasing in activity; the best way for people to protect themselves from influenza is to get vaccinated.

Infection Preventionist for Highland Community Hospital Christy Bowen said there have been multiple confirmed cases of influenza in Pearl River County and encouraged all of its citizens to get their flu shots.

Bowen added that the H3N2 strain of the virus that has been prevalent this flu season presents a greater risk to the elderly and young children.

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In the press release, State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said this year’s vaccine is not a perfect match for nearly half the cases of flu nationwide, but he and other healthcare professionals still recommend getting vaccinated.

“If you do get the flu after being vaccinated, having the flu shot decreases the severity of flu symptoms as well as the risks of complication,” said Bowen.

National Influenza Vaccination Week started on Dec. 7 and will continue through Dec. 13. The release states that the intention is to make people aware vaccines are still available and recommended by healthcare professionals, even this late in the year.

“The flu shot takes one to two weeks to produce immunity,” said Dobbs in the release, “So it’s definitely not too late to get your flu shot.”

The flu is a serious illness that can come with severe complications. The release states that more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year because of the flu, and an estimated 36,000 people will die. Bowen said adults older than 50, young children and pregnant women have the highest risk for complications, so she strongly recommends vaccinations for those demographics.

As for prevention, Bowen recommended good hygiene, such as consistent and thorough hand washing, and covering the mouth when coughing. Those who contract the flu should stay home from work to avoid spreading it to others.

Flu shots are available in a number of places throughout the county. There are seasonal flu shots available, as well as high-dose flu vaccinations for patients 65 and older. Call your doctor, pharmacist or the Pearl River County Health Department for more information.

“Everyone should take the threat of flu very seriously and get vaccinated now,” said Dobbs in the release.