Ohio public health officials say now is the “perfect time” to get a flu shot before Christmas and New Years.
Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer said “it’s never too late” to get a vaccine because the flu season can extend into early spring.
Sietske de Fijter, an epidemiologist and the bureau chief for Ohio Department of Health, said she typically encourages people to get a vaccine in the first week of December, but now is just as critical.
“When people are gathering, it is peak flu season,” de Fijter said.
The flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to become fully effective and it is recommended for anyone older than 6 months. The only people who should not get a flu shot are those who have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past, officials said.
The most recent data, from Nov. 24 to Nov. 30, shows Ohio has had 172 flu-related hospitalizations this flu season. The Ohio Department of Health releases new flu data every Friday.
Five people in Butler County have been hospitalized due to the flu or complications from the flu and nine people have been hospitalized in Warren County, according to the data. Bailer called the hospitalization numbers “normal” for the region.
From the start of flu season to Nov. 23 there were 139 influenza-related hospitalizations in Ohio. From that period to Nov. 30 there were 33 additional flu-related hospitalizations. de Fijter said she expects to see an uptick in the number of flu-related hospitalizations after Thanksgiving.
The best way to protect against the flu is the vaccine, Bailer said. Covering your mouth when you cough, frequently washing hands, getting plenty of rest, following a healthy diet are all “good steps” to fight the flu, she said.
If you feel you’re getting the flu, contact your health care provider immediately to see if anti viral medication can reduce the severity and length of the illness, Bailer said.
The flu is considered “widespread” in several southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina, according to national data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Last flu season resulted in four deaths of children and more than 9,800 hospitalizations in Ohio alone.
Late December and early January are typically when flu-related hospitalizations start to peak, de Fijter said, but the flu is very unpredictable. Last year, the flu season had almost two peaks.
“The only predictable thing about the flu is that it is unpredictable,” de Fijter said.
According to the CDC, the flu infects between 9 and 35 million people in the country every year.
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