We’re halfway through the Hanukkah celebration; Christmas sales are in full swing and flu season is starting to pick up. So federal health officials are once again reminding everyone about the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu – part of National Influenza Vaccination Week.
This is the first flu season in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that most everyone older than 6 months of age get a flu vaccine.
A recent telephone survey conducted on behalf of the CDC suggests at least one in three Americans have already been vaccinated. But that’s not enough, according to health officials.
“We don't want people to be complacent because disease activity has been low so far this year,” warns Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Flu is coming.”
Health officials are encouraged by the numbers of people already vaccinated, many more can benefit from being protected, Schuchat said.
“[Vaccine] coverage was 10 percent higher among whites than among blacks or Hispanics,” Schuchat told reporters. She also noted that one one child had reportedly died from the flu this season.
According to the latest CDC flu map, Georgia is the only state reporting “regional” flu activity and nine states and Puerto Rico are reporting the lesser “local” flu activity. Most of the rest of the United States is dealing with sporadic cases of the flu and Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont haven’t had any flu activity yet.
Flu activity today is much weaker compared with a year ago, when the then-new H1N1 virus was causing a lot of illness. But health officials caution that we’re only two weeks away from the Christmas holidays, which means people will be traveling to see family and friends and they may not only come bearing gifts but also flu virus.
So the message from the Department of Health and Human Services is – if you haven’t already done so, get a flu shot or nasal spray now – particularly because it takes about two weeks after getting the vaccine to gain full immunity to protect against getting sick from the flu.