Flu shots are now available at all Swope Health locations. You are invited (and encouraged) to come in for your vaccine, which is especially important during the current coronavirus pandemic.
“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.
Why is the flu vaccine even more important to get this flu season?
We want to reduce the number and severity of the flu especially this year because of COVID-19. We want to reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population, and also lessen the burden on the healthcare systems in our community.
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.
Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines given with a needle are made with either inactivated (killed) viruses, or with only a single protein from the flu virus. An inactivated virus cannot transmit infection. So people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. It takes approximately two weeks to get protection from the vaccine.
How long does it take to develop symptoms of influenza after being exposed?
The incubation period for influenza is usually two days, but can range from one to four days. A person may pass the virus from one day before symptoms start through seven days after the start of the illness.
If I get the flu, what should I do?
Contact your provider. You may benefit from antiviral medicine. Antiviral medicines are most beneficial when started within the first 1-2 days of influenza illness.
Why do some people who get the flu vaccine still get the flu?
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine is about 50% to 60% effective for healthy adults who are between 18 and 64 years old. Even when the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent the flu, it may lessen the severity of your illness, and reduce the risk of serious complications and serious illness requiring hospitalization.
What is the difference between the (flu) and COVID-19?
Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
Can I get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time.
Call Swope Health at 816-923-5800 to schedule your appointment for a flu shot now. It’s more important than ever.