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Published on December 14, 2015

One last shot at flu protection

One last shot at flu protection

Every year, many seasonal residents of Cape Cod head south. Traveling the other direction at this time of the year is the flu, which usually hits southern states first.

That’s the case this year. Last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that low to moderate flu activity was starting to appear in Oklahoma and South Carolina.

“That’s a sign that flu activity is likely to pick up in a week or two,” Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in the CDC’s influenza division, told HealthDay News. “If we can get people to get vaccinated in the weeks before they leave for their holiday trips, that would be ideal.”

So far, there are no districts in the CDC’s Region 1, which is made up of the six New England states, with high or moderate flu activity, according to Gigi Dash, RN, Cape Cod Healthcare’s corporate director for infection prevention.

“In the eight southeastern states that make up Region 4, they are experiencing influenza Type A, which isn’t surprising,” she said. “As of Dec. 9, on Cape Cod, there had been only three laboratory-confirmed cases. Two people were admitted around Oct. 24 and we haven’t seen any cases since.”

Dash gets updated information on flu cases on a daily basis.

“By December, usually we begin to see it heat up,” she said. “Instead, January will be when we expect to see it pick up.”

The late arrival of the flu this year is no reason to skip getting a flu shot, she said.

“What it’s telling me is now is the hour to get a flu shot so you are protected and your loved ones are protected,” she said. “It’s particularly important for people taking care of infants less than 6 months old. They’re at risk of complications if they get the flu.”

According to the CDC, people who are at higher risk for complications from influenza include:

  • People with asthma, diabetes or heart disease and those who have had a stroke
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have HIV or AIDS
  • People who have cancer
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old

“Flu shots are very readily available. We don’t have a shortage,” said Dash. “Thus far, this year’s vaccine seems to be a good match with the virus.”

Flu shots are available at your primary care provider’s office, as well as at most local pharmacies, including Cape Cod Healthcare’s pharmacy at the Stoneman Outpatient Center in Sandwich. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to determine the location nearest you.

If you develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue, you should call your doctor immediately, Mary Devlin, RN, public health and wellness manager at the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod, told OneCape Health News earlier this year. She said the symptoms come on quickly and can be severe.

“Your doctor can probably prescribe you something that will definitely shorten the duration and lesson your symptoms,” she said. “Tamiflu is a good effective drug, but it should not be your go-to solution. Really your go-to should be to get the vaccine.