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October 17th, 2019

flu shotCourtesy photosELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The flu has resulted in 9.3 million to 49 million illnesses each year in the United States since 2010, according to Healthline, and each year, on average, 5 to 20 percent of the United States population gets the flu. Healthline noted it is estimated that the flu results in 31.4 million outpatient visits and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year.

“During the severe 2017-2018 flu season, one of the longest in recent years, estimates indicate that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu,” noted. “One report put the estimate of the cost of lost productivity to employers due to the flu in 2017-2018 at more than $21 billion, according to employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Moreover, an estimated 25 million workers got sick, while $855.68 was the average amount of wages lost due to missing shifts. A 2018 report estimated the average annual total economic burden of seasonal influenza to the American healthcare system and society was $11.2 billion. Direct medical costs were estimated to be $3.2 billion and indirect costs $8 billion.”

With that in mind, and with flu season rapidly approaching, it is time for people to think about getting their flu shot to minimize the risk of becoming ill. 

“There are still many, many people who die from complications with the flu every year, and getting the flu shot and preventing yourself from getting sick would be extremely helpful with that,” Seward County Health Department Administrator Martha Brown said. “Those who are most at risk of getting the flu are those who are more elderly and/or their caretakers, those who are immunocompromised, and extremely young children who haven't yet gotten all their vaccinations. Those people are more at risk for those complications and ultimately, it could turn out to be a very bad situation. The process of becoming immune starts right after you get the shot, and it takes about two weeks for the body to reach full immunity. So the sooner you get one, the better, and it lasts the entire flu season. So the sooner you can get the shot in your body, the better so it can all start taking effect. And there are different forms of the flu vaccine you can get, it just depends on the patient and also what is available at their physician's offices.”

Symptoms of the flu can include fatigue, body aches and chills, cough, sore throat, and fever, and the CDC recommends people get the flu shot every year in order to minimize the risk of getting sick. Should someone find themselves down with the flu, however, Brown said there are things they can do. 

“The first thing is see your physician and get a proper diagnosis. While there's not a full cure, there are antivirals that can prescribe to help with the symptoms, which really is the only thing you can do since the flu is a virus,” Brown said. “And keep in mind those who are diagnosed with the flu are technically considered infectious for five to seven days after they first feel ill, which is a long time. So if you're sick, stay home and don't go back to work until you've been fever-free for 24 hours without having taken any medicine.”

“Another big thing is stay home, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. And be sure to practice good hygiene, that is the biggest thing people can do, and the main thing with that is proper handwashing, covering your mouth if you cough, simple things like that,” Seward County Health Department Registered Nurse Trina Landry added. 

It is especially important for children to be sure to get vaccinated, both Brown and Landry agreed. 

“Smaller children especially are more susceptible to that stuff and children in school are exposed to a lot of stuff, and they're just learning some of that proper hygiene and handwashing, so they don't always do it,” Brown said. 

“And parents want their children protected and to not be sick, and they don't want their children bringing illnesses home so their families get all sick,” Landry said. “So the earlier you get the shot, the better, and the earlier you start those good hygiene habits, the better. And we were talking earlier about how it takes two weeks for the shot to fully kick in, we know there are stories out there about how the flu shot causes the flu, but it doesn't – if you feel poorly after getting the shot, there's a good chance it's either not the flu or you've already been exposed to someone who was diagnosed with the flu.”

Brown said she expects to see many people in the health department’s offices to receive the flu shot in the coming weeks. 

“We do see a lot of people, we're probably the biggest vaccine provider in Liberal. And with the flu season coming up, we want to see a lot of people in here to protect themselves from getting sick because that means people are taking their health seriously,” Brown said. “Overall, come in and get it as soon as you can. And if anyone has any questions about any of this, they can get ahold of us here at 620-626-3369, and we would actually recommend they do that so we can make sure we have the right doses and everything ready for them. We've been doing this a long time, so if you have a child, or if you're thinking about it for yourself, go ahead and go for it – if you can find a place that will get that shot taken care of, go ahead and get it so you protect yourself. We don't have any official predictions about what this year will be like and if you want to protect yourself from the flu and don't want to deal with being sick, get it. It helps us here at the health department too if people are healthy because that means we're doing our job and we're spreading the word correctly.”

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