Not too late to get flu shot

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Escambia County is one of more than half of Alabama’s 67 counties hit hard by the flu virus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
And with school back in session, the number of flu cases is expected to rise, according to David Legett, immunization director for ADPH Area 9.
The state is also among 29 nationally dealing with the highest level of flu outbreak as of Dec. 27, the Center for Disease Control announced Monday. That’s an increase from 22 states earlier in December, the CDC said, and “influenza activity continued to increase in the United States.”
The CDC said 21 children have died nationwide as a result of flu-associated illness during the 2014-15 flu season. None of the deaths have taken place in Alabama.
“It is January, and people have all been together for the holidays, so we’re starting to see larger numbers of cases,” Legett said. “This strain that’s going around now, it’s A type H3. Some media coverage the fact that the vaccine is not the best match for the strain that is circulation, but, year-in-and-year-out, that happens to a greater or lesser degree.”
Legett said flu activity typically peaks each year between December and February, though activity can begin as early as October and continue as late in the season as May. 
“We still tell the public it’s not too late to get a flu shot,” he said. “And while the predominate strain has mutated a bit, that doesn’t mean the vaccine is not effective against it. (The vaccine) is not as good as a match as you’d hoped for, but it will lessen the severity and is effective in reducing or minimizing the illness.”
Typically, it takes two weeks before antibodies develop against the illness.
“So that means, the sooner you get vaccinated, the better,” Legett said. “And remember, while (the vaccine) may protect you, you may be protecting family members or co-workers.
“If you can’t get it, you can’t spread it,” he said of the virus. “It’s not about the individual, and some people lose sight of that – especially if you’re in a household with small children who are too young to get the vaccine. You don’t want them to get it.”
The best protection against the illness is a good hand washing practice, Legett said.
Vaccines are offered at all county health departments, local physicians’ offices and area pharmacies. Legett recommend calling the health department before arriving for a vaccination to avoid a wait.