Get a flu shot. People may get tired of hearing this message. But to the Alachua County Heath Department, it’s not too late to get immunized.
Kathleen Ryan, University of Florida’s pediatric infectious disease specialist, said experts predict a severe flu season.
“So far, the flu season nationally is worse than the last couple of years,” said Ryan, who is also the medical coordinator of the Control Flu program. She noted that there have been 20 pediatric deaths nationwide and two in the state of Florida.
The Florida Department of Health reported nine influenza outbreaks in the first week of January alone and more outbreaks this season so far than at this time in previous years.
Paul Myers, administrator for the county health department, said immunization rates have decreased since 2016 when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted against using the nasal FluMist. Myers said everyone should take responsible actions.
“In our school program this year, we [immunized] about 25 percent of all the public and private school students,” Myers said. “That is down significantly from two years ago. We are hoping to offer [FluMist] again next year.”
Myers also acknowledged that getting a flu vaccine doesn’t fully prevent infections, but controlling the flu and its further complications is the top priority of his department. He said after-vaccination infections could become less severe and complicated.
Ryan said the department considered all four strands of flu virus when it created the vaccine. Ryan recommends taking flu shots every year because viruses can still mutate.
Vaccinations are still offered at the Alachua County Health Department, commercial pharmacies and through primary care providers.