This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week. When it's after November and you see signs and banners in your community that advertise, "Get Your Flu Vaccine Here," you might think, "Isn't it too late for that?" The answer is no!
"Flu season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May," says Christine Schuyler, Public Health Director. "We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now."
An annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and the flu-related complications that could lead to hospitalization and even death. Health experts across the country recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.
Over the years, the number of people recommended for flu vaccination grew steadily as experts learned more about who was at highest risk for flu complications or who was bearing the greatest burden of illness and possibly playing a role in spreading flu in the community. Scientists and public health experts came to recognize that while influenza is particularly dangerous for certain people, it can cause severe illness and even death for anyone, regardless of whether or not they have high risk conditions. In fact, influenza is among the most common respiratory illnesses in the United States, infecting millions of people every flu season. However, only 46 percent of people 6 months of age and older were vaccinated during the 2011-12 season.
Every year, flu spreads across the country, from person to person, family to family, and community to community. The severity of flu illness can vary from mild to severe. When severe, flu complications can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu.
"One of the greatest challenges we face from the flu is the uncertainty of the disease," explains Schuyler. "Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on their body's ability to fight infection."
Getting a flu vaccine is more convenient than ever before. Vaccines are available, for example, from your doctor or local health department, and at many retail pharmacies. Many employers, schools, colleges and universities also offer flu vaccines. Moreover, the annual vaccine supply continues to grow, helping to ensure that enough vaccine is available for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated. So when you're out and about in your community and see signs offering flu shots, or when you visit your doctor for a routine check-up, remember: the flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu.