Starting Sept. 21, Swope Health will offer flu shots at all locations.
“We are very concerned about the upcoming flu season, combined with COVID-19,” said Dr. Jennifer Frost, interim Chief Medical Officer at Swope Health. “We encourage everyone six months or older to get a flu shot.”
The flu – by itself – is dangerous. In the 2018-2019 flu season, the flu was responsible for more than 34,200 deaths and more than 35 million illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Now, coupled with another potentially fatal virus, it is especially important to take precautions,” she said. Individuals who are 65 and older, those with illnesses like asthma or heart disease, and pregnant women are particularly encouraged to get vaccinated.
This year, with growing concern over the two viruses spreading together in the community – a so-called “Twindemic” – many workplaces will require employees to have a flu shot.
Here are some answers to key questions:
Is it safe? YES!
The flu vaccine has been well studied and, yes, it is safe, Dr. Frost says. The CDC confirms that flu vaccines have been studied for more than 50 years and have a good safety record. The vaccine does not contain the actual flu virus itself, but a substance that “looks like” the flu. The injection prompts the body’s immune system to take action.
The risk in getting a flu shot is minimal – some people may get a little redness or pain at the site of the injection. It is possible the shot may produce a low-grade temperature or mild aches, but this goes away within a day or so. This reaction is actually the body confirming that its immune system is responding, Dr. Frost noted.
When is the best time? NOW!
Yes, now! Getting a shot early in the flu season gives you a better chance of protecting against catching the flu. The CDC encourages everyone to get a flu shot early – in September or October – before the flu season gets heavily underway. The CDC also notes that it’s helpful to get the flu shot even if you miss the early opportunity because the flu generally stays active and reaches a peak in February.
Are there any other precautions we can take? YES!
These will sound familiar: you can prevent the spread of the flu by frequent handwashing, maintaining physical distancing from others and wearing a mask. The practices that prevent the spread of COVID-19 are the same for influenza, because both are contagious viruses that use the respiratory system to infect others.
The CDC suggests staying away from close contact with people who are sick, and staying home if you get sick. The other rules are to cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands thoroughly and practice good cleaning of surfaces and items you touch. Remember to keep your hands away from your face and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Call Swope Health at 816-923-5800 to schedule your appointment for a flu shot now. It’s more important than ever.