Although flu season often doesn’t get started in earnest until after Thanksgiving, some years we see earlier starts than others. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a smattering of flu reports from New Mexico, California, and New Hampshire – but this week we’ve seen several flu fatalities announced – including among children.
A reminder that influenza is a genuine killer – claiming thousands of lives in the United States each year – and that it is well past time to get that yearly flu shot. It can take about 2 weeks for the shot to reach maximum effectiveness.
As we’ve discussed before, flu vaccines – while considered very safe – are only moderately effective against influenza. Their VE (vaccine effectiveness) can vary widely between flu shot recipients, and is often substantially reduced among those older than 65 or with immune problems.
But as an added incentive, we recently saw a study - that while far from conclusive - suggesting that the Flu Vaccine May Reduce Heart Attack Risk.
Frankly, getting your seasonal flu shot each year should be part of your overall preparedness plan. During a disaster or prolonged emergency you are likely to be tired, stressed, and your immune systems could be weakened.
The last thing you need during a crisis is to be sick with the flu on top of it.
While we can’t predict what kind of flu season lies ahead, taking care to practice good flu hygiene (covering coughs & sneezes, washing hands, staying home when sick) and getting the flu shot are your best protections against getting hit by the flu.
Several reports, first from North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services:
For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Raleigh - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is reporting the state's first flu death for the 2014-2015 flu season. An elementary school-aged child in the Triangle region of the State died last week because of complications from an influenza infection. The child was at risk for complications from the flu because of underlying medical conditions.
From neighboring South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, we get:
October 7, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today that it has been notified of the state's first flu-associated death of the season.
"Tragically, an individual from the Midlands region has become our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated death of the season," said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. "We are in the beginning stages of our state's flu season. It is important to get vaccinated now. The vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body's protection against the virus, and vaccination is - by far - the best way to prevent the spread of the flu."
And from Idaho’s Department of Health, word of two recent flu fatalities:
NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: October 9, 2014
Public Information Officer
Two Idaho adults over the age of 60, a woman from Ada County and a woman from Kootenai County, died recently from influenza-related illnesses. These are the first deaths in Idaho attributed to influenza this season. In Idaho’s last flu season, 19 people died from flu-related illnesses.
Given the lag in reporting on both flu activity, and deaths, it is likely that these cases represent just the tip of this season’s early season iceberg.