Health officials haven’t begun actively monitoring flu cases, but they’re advising residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves before the flu season kicks into high gear.
The flu season can start as early as October and last through May, and local pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals have already made the flu shot available.
Emily Miller, medical assistant at the Liberty Urgent Care on Yankee Road, said several people have already come in for flu vaccinations, which cost $17. She said no appointment is needed.
Several pharmacies said one reason to get the vaccine early is that some locations occasionally run out of vaccine during flu outbreaks, but health officials say such shortages are unlikely this year.
Dr. Anwer Siddiqui, medical director of infectious diseases at Atrium Medical Center, said in his 15 years, there were the most hospitalizations due to the influenza last year, though he didn’t know the exact number. He doesn’t expect many problems this year.
“We are prepared,” said Siddiqui, who added he hasn’t seen any flu activity this year.
Those who are considering flu shots will have four options, said Jenny Bailer, nursing director for the Butler County Board of Health. Those are: traditional, jet injections with air instead of needles, intro-dermal with smaller needles and nasal spray. She said residents who are 65 and older should get a higher dose of flu shot because their immune systems may need “a jolt.”
She said the batch of flu shots will be “new and improved” over last year’s.
So far, she said, one Butler County resident has been hospitalized because of the flu and that occurred in September.
Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health, said there “is plenty of vaccine to go around,” noting that manufacturers have projected they will provide between 171 million and 179 million doses of vaccines for the U.S. market this season.
DiOrio said the main reason to get the flu shot early is that it takes about two weeks after getting the vaccine for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection.
So far, no cases have been confirmed in the Miami Valley, but statewide “we’ve been seeing a little bit of flu all summer,” DiOrio said.
“We’ll start monitoring (flu cases) actively at the beginning of October because that’s usually when your flu season starts,” she said. “Flu is unpredictable, and we’ll just have to see what happens.”
Alicia Habermehl, health educator with the Warren County Health Department, said people should get their flu shots as soon as they’re available. The cost there is $25. Most insurances are accepted and appointments are needed, she said.
The Butler County Health Department is offering flu shots to adults for $25, or $45 for those ages 65 and older.
Jackie Phillips, health director for the City of Middletown, also recommended residents get vaccinated beginning in October so they will be fully immune before the holidays when they’re typically around more people.
DiOrio said this year’s flu shot should be effective against the most common flu strains. One shot contains two A strains — considered the most severe flu virus — and one B strain. Another shot has two of each, otherwise known as a quadrivalent vaccine because it protects against four different types of flu virus.
“The vaccine this year will cover different strains of flu than the one last year,” DiOrio said. “We’re optimistic that it’s going to be a good match.”
More people tested positive for the flu during the 2014-2015 season than the previous season, in part, because last year’s flu shot — which was only about 13 percent effective — didn’t fully protect against a mutated strain that emerged after the flu season started, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This season’s vaccine contains the mutated H3N2 strain as well as other strains expected to dominate this winter and should be 50 percent to 60 percent effective, as it is in most years, the CDC said.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older get the vaccine annually.
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