Labor Day is barely over and the kids are just going back to school, but health officials say it’s not too early to get flu shots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already telling the public to get the shot early. Chain drugstores such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens have posted signs saying they have the vaccine. Smaller drug stores and doctors’ offices are set to deliver the prescribed dosage.
Each year, the CDC and the World Health Organization design a vaccine to protect against the three strains they predict are most likely to cause the flu in the next several months. Last year’s outbreak was considered relatively mild, but flu deaths can range from 3,000 to 49,000 a year in the United States.
Although officials at the CDC will not predict how severe the flu season will be or how much protection this year’s vaccine will provide, they say the earlier people get the shot, the better. The most active time for flu to hit is January or February, but it can begin as early as October and continue through next May.
Protection lasts a year and even if the vaccine isn’t a perfect match for the active strain, CDC officials say it will reduce the severity of the symptoms or help prevent flu-related complications.
The cost of the vaccine is covered by many federal programs such as Medicare Part B and many health insurances. Check with neighborhood drugstores for a schedule of when the shots are given. You may be able to get it on the spot. Or call your physician to make an appointment.
The city Department of Health offers a flu vaccine locator in Queens online. Go to nyc.gov/health and select seasonal flu. The DOH estimates 2,000 New Yorkers die yearly of flu and pneumonia,which is often a complication of the flu.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs. It is spread easily by virus-containing droplets dispersed in the air by sneezing and coughing.
Since the virus strains change each year, an annual shot is required. It is recommended for people ages 6 months and older and the drug becomes effective in two weeks.
Drug manufacturers have projected they will produce between 135 million and 139 million doses of vaccine for use in the United States during the 2013-2014 season.
The CDC recommends taking three steps to fight the flu: Get the shot; take preventive action to stop the spread of germs; and take flu antiviral drugs from your doctor if you get the flu.
Vaccinations of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease the risk of severe flu illness, according to the CDC. They include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 and older.
To prevent the spread of the virus, avoid close contact with sick people and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Stay home if you have the flu. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs spread this way.
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs prescribed by your doctor in the early stages can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.