According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter.
But with a number of cases already confirmed in the region, experts are urging residents not to hesitate in getting flu shots.
“Now is really a good time to get immunized,” Dr. Jeanne Spencer, family medicine residency program director and family medicine department chairwoman at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, told our Randy Griffith for his monthly Health Matters report. “You want to get immunized before the flu is in the community.”
It appears that it’s already here. As of late last week, Conemaugh’s emergency department confirmed one flu case, while several others were seen at iCare in Southmont.
“That is unusual for September,” said Emily Korns, Conemaugh spokeswoman. “It is early to even test for the flu.”
Experts say influenza activity increases in October and often peaks between December and February, and the best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated every year.
“The CDC put an announcement out to get a flu shot by the end of October,” said Dr. Matt Zajdel, of iCare, who noted that his patients who tested positive had not been vaccinated.
Experts say the benefits of the vaccine include reducing illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work and school, as well as preventing flu-related hospitalizations. A 2017 study showed that the vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu. Flu shots are not advised for babies younger than 6 months old, so it’s recommended that parents be vaccinated.
“Getting the vaccine is not only good for your own health, but the health of everybody around,” Zajdel said.
Added Spencer: “You may be around a loved one who has some kind of chronic illness. You wouldn’t want to bring it home to them.”
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in addition to getting a flu shot, the following everyday actions can help stop the spread of germs:
• Washing hands often.
• Covering mouth and nose with tissue when sneezing or coughing.
• Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth.
• Cleaning surfaces regularly.
• Staying home when sick.
Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial, but why wait? Especially when the health of you and your loved ones is at risk.