Flu cases on the rise

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By MAUREEN DOLAN

Staff Writer

There is still time get a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to get a flu vaccine by the end of October, but early December is still ahead of the typical flu season peak, which is usually between December and March.

“As long as the flu is still circulating in your community, it’s not too late,” said Lisa Grohskopf, M.D, Medical Officer at the CDC.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you’re not alone. During last year’s flu season, less than 50 percent of people in the U.S. reported having been vaccinated by the end of November, according to the CDC.

Right now, in North Idaho, flu cases are on the rise.

There were six hospitalizations and one flu-related death in the region in November. The current rate of hospitalizations for influenza has increased to 12.9/100,000 population, according to information provided by epidemiologists at Panhandle Health District. That’s a trend of roughly 20 flu-related hospital admissions in the region.

“According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to fully develop in the body, so it’s best to get vaccinated early,” said PHD spokeswoman Melanie Collett.

For those who have not yet been vaccinated, this is a good time to do it, Collett said.

At the health district, they are seeing more tests come back positive for influenza. Between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, 105 specimens were tested for flu virus in North Idaho, and 25 came back positive.

The median age of those testing positive is 70. Influenza type A is more prevalent in North Idaho with 58 percent testing positive for that strain. The rest tested positive for type B.

“The single best way to prevent the spread of the flu is getting an annual flu shot. It’s a safe and effective way to prevent illness and save lives by significantly limiting your likelihood of passing on flu symptoms to vulnerable loved ones,” Collett said.

You don’t have to have flu symptoms to be passing the illness on to people around you who are at high risk for complications leading to hospitalization or death: young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions.

People who have the flu often experience all or many of the following symptoms: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and occasionally vomiting or diarrhea, although digestive issues are more common in children.

Vaccines are available at many pharmacies and physician’s offices.

The shots are also administered at Panhandle Health District’s Care Plus Clinics. The agency bills all insurances, including Medicare and Medicaid. Most flu shots are fully covered by insurance. Without insurance, the cost of a flu shot is $20 for a child, $49 for adults and $88 for the high dose that is recommended for those 65 and older.

In addition to your annual flu shot, you can protect yourself by washing your hands often and avoiding people with cold or flu symptoms. If you have flu symptoms, PHD advises you to stay home to prevent spreading the virus to others. And as always, cover your coughs and sneezes.

To make an appointment for a flu shot in Kootenai County, call PHD’s Care Plus Clinic in Hayden at 208-415-5270.

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