(WECT) - Flu season begins in October and health officials ask that everyone get the vaccine for a better chance at staying healthy this year.
“The recommendation is to have the vaccine by the end of October," said Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, MD, DTM&H with Wilmington Health. "It takes about a couple of weeks once you get the flu vaccine for it to really kick in so you really want to precede the flu season if you can.”
Flu season runs from October through May of each year. Dr. Kamitsuka says here in our area, the season is at it’s earnest during late December-early January, but he says there have already been a few cases this month. Dr. Kamitsuka explains how each year, the flu season can change. He says if you’ve heard that this year’s flu season is “going to be a bad one,” that is not true.
“Flu is unpredictable," said Dr. Kamitsuka. "The only thing predictable about it is that flu season will happen, sort of like death and taxes. In terms of how bad flu season will be, when it’s going to occur, when it’s going to end, that is unpredictable year-to-year.”
Dr. Kamitsuka says everyone should get the flu shot, but especially those 65 and older and young children. Most insurance providers cover the flu vaccine and if you’re not insured, there are several flu clinics around the cape fear area. Visit WECT’s Flu Watch page to learn more. Along with the flu vaccine, there are other things you can do to prevent getting ill.
“The most important thing is to get vaccinated, but in addition to that: hand hygiene," said Dr. Kamitsuka. "Washing the hands. Using alcohol-based hand rubs. Also, if you’re sick, don’t go to work because you don’t want to spread it to other people. Also, if you’re coughing or sneezing, be sure not to cough or sneeze in someone’s face. You wanna sort of want to cough or sneeze, for example, into the elbow to sort of limit the spread of the flu virus.”
According to the CDC, it’s believed there were between 37 million to 43 million flu cases in the U.S. last year and 36,400 to 61,200 flu-related deaths.
“If everybody did get the flu shot like they should, if they were six-months of age or older, we would have far fewer doctors visits, hospitalizations, and deaths across the united states," said Dr. Kamitsuka.
For more information on the flu such as ways to prevent it, the vaccine, and treatments, visit the CDC’s website.