Flu season under way — but there’s still time to get vaccine

    In New Jersey, health officials say flu activity across the state has been “moderate,” but Haddon Township resident Michelle Ayers says, personally, the flu hit her like a freight train.

     

    “You feel feverish, you’re coughing,” Ayers said. “You just feel so depleted and worn out.”

    Ayers has been sick for two weeks straight.

    She visited her doctor’s office soon after she began to suffer body aches, high temperature and a wheezing cough, but the antiviral medication she took didn’t sit well on her stomach. Eventually her illness morphed into bronchitis and she ended up visited the emergency room.

    She regrets not getting the flu shot.

    “I was in denial,” Ayers said. “I’m a very fit, active 59-year-old, but I just didn’t believe when they say: ‘Everyone should get a flu shot.’ I thought they were for seniors, the weak, the very young. I thought that’s not for me. I’ve completely changed my opinion about that and I’ll be first in line next fall.”

    The advice from public health officials is the same this year as last.

    “Anyone who’s over 6 months of age should get vaccinated, especially anyone who’s younger than 5, older than 65 or pregnant. These are our highest risk groups,” said Pennsylvania’s Physician General Carrie DeLone.

    DeLone says she expects the number of flu cases in Pennsylvania to inch up in coming weeks, but for now the count on confirmed cases is behind last year’s tally.

    For the week ending, Dec. 21, officials said the outbreak was “widespread,” meaning 50 percent of counties in the state now have a confirmed case of influenza

    For the same time period, flu activity in Delaware was “local,” limited to just one region, according to a Delaware Department of Health and Social Services spokeswoman.

    In Pennsylvania, nearly all patients were sickened by the H1N1 strain of the flu, a strain that has been especially prevalent among young people, DeLone said.

    All available flu vaccines include protection against H1N1. There are several options available this season.

    The traditional three-strain or trivalent vaccine.
    The four-strain or quadrivalent vaccine.
     A high-dose option, recommended only for older adults.
    An egg-free vaccine for those with severe allergy.

    For most people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend one vaccine over the others.

    “Don’t be too concerned about which one is available,” DeLone said. “Get whichever is available, better to get it faster than to wait around and decide which is the best.”

    Estimates on the effectiveness of flu vaccine vary widely from one patient population to the next, but health officials often say immunization is the best protection available.

     

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