Time is running out to get a flu shot before the season revs up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated in early fall, because the shot takes about two weeks to protect from influenza. While reported flu cases are minimal across the country, doctors are urging that everyone receive a vaccination by the end of October.
“The sooner that patients can get the flu vaccine, the sooner they are protected. If we can get the majority of citizens to get the vaccine then they are protecting not just themselves but other people,” says Dr. Jessie Lawrence with Westside Medical Care on Pamalee Drive.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. At least three flu-related deaths have been reported this season in North Carolina, according to news agencies. They include 29-year-old Scarlett Vanstory Levinson, a Fayetteville native and Raleigh lawyer who died from a cardiac event following complications of the flu, various news agencies reported.
The flu season in North Carolina is October through May, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
While the flu virus can have serious implications, even for those in good health, flu complications are more common among very young children, adults over 50, people with chronic health conditions and pregnant women.
Duane Holder, an assistant county manager and Cumberland’s interim health director, reiterated the importance of people getting their flu shot.
“Assuming that people are properly protected by vaccination and that there is no mutation of the current flu virus strain, then this year’s flu season may be milder than previous ones,” Holder said.
Lawrence said the flu for some could be a runny nose, cough or fever while others may have nausea, vomiting and stomach issues.
“For patients that their immune system is a little bit weaker or they have other medical issues that complicate their health — diabetes, high blood pressure, they smoke, asthma — then they are putting themselves at risk for pneumonia, which can be a more serious complication from the flu,” Lawrence said.
The Cumberland County Health Department is offering flu vaccinations for children and adults at the Immunizations Clinic at 1235 Ramsey St. Uninsured children 6 months to 18 years of age may receive the vaccination for free. For others, the cost will depend on the type of flu vaccine received.
The Immunizations Clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., every second and fourth Tuesday until 7 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. Walk-ins are welcome except on Friday afternoons, which are limited and available by appointment only. For more information, call 910-433-3633 or 910-433-3657.
Flu shots also are available at several pharmacies, including CVS Minute-Clinics and Walgreens. Most insurance plans cover the costs.
Here are some other tips to protect yourself this flu season:
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and discard the tissue properly.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
• Stay home when you are sick; remain at home until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.