HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported high levels of activity from influenza-like illnesses in Mississippi during last year’s flu season with widespread flu activity in the state. Ahead of flu season, local doctors urge everyone to get the vaccine to prevent them from catching the flu.
“We strongly recommend that everybody have their flu vaccine done before the end of October,” said Austin Worley, D.O. of Forrest Health Family Medicine Residency Program.
Flu season officially starts in October and can run as late as May with flu activity peaking between October and February.
“The more you get the flu shot, the better off you are,” said Worley.
According to the CDC’s website, influenza is described as a “contagious respiratory illness by influenza viruses.” Despite being a typically mild illness, the flu can lead to hospitalization and even death. During the 2017 and 2018 season, the CDC estimates that more than 700, 000 people were hospitalized with flu.
“Studies have actually shown that there is a 41 percent more mortality benefit from people who get the flu shot from yearly compared to those who don’t,” said Worley. “That means that your risk of dying is 41 percent less.”
From year to year, the Food Drug and Administration decides which strains of flu to put into the year’s vaccine based on the World Health Organization’s recommendation. And since multiple viral strains can potentially circulate throughout the season, they include three or four types of the strain.
“These strains keep evolving and that’s why the flu is so bad from year-to-year. So, we have a different strain in the United States every year,” said Worley.
Lauren Garner, Southeast Rural Health Initiative nurse practitioner, says anyone six months and older can receive the vaccine.
“We want to vaccinate especially our elders and the really young-- those who are comprised--- as well as expecting mothers, because they are our more vulnerable population,” said Garner.
Although officials say the vaccine isn’t perfect, they stand by the notion that it’s the best protection against the flu.
“What people don’t know is that every year, the CDC updates the vaccine, tries to advance it so does target different strands of the virus. So, every year it’s different, it’s updated, it’s better,” said Garner.
Below are some tips to prevent the spread of germs during the flu season:
• Stay at home if you are sick
• Wash hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds
• Cough into your shoulder, not hand
• Clean hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing nose
• Keep frequently touched common surfaces (i.e. telephones, desk, computer, etc.) clean
• Avoid shaking hands with people who are sick
Anyone interested in getting the vaccine can visit the Hattiesburg Clinic Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those outside of Hattiesburg can visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder for the nearest location offering flu shots here.