By Staff 10-3,2016
Seasonal flu shots are the best way available to help prepare for the upcoming flu season and avoid influenza illness, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
“Influenza may be something familiar we see return every year, but it should never be overlooked or accepted as a minor inconvenience. Flu is a serious illness,” said Dr. Wendy Braund, state health officer and WDH Public Health Division senior administrator.
“Nearly everyone six months or older should get seasonal flu vaccines each year. Flu shots are safe and the most important action people can take to help prevent getting ill with influenza and passing it on to others,” she said.
“Anyone can get the flu and healthy people do usually recover,” Braund said. “But they can also spread the virus to others who may be more vulnerable.”
Braund noted previously available nasal mist vaccines are no longer recommended by national experts and are not expected to be available due to concerns about whether they were effective previously. “This season we are specifically encouraging flu shots,” she said.
The 2015-16 flu season was much milder in Wyoming than the previous season that saw a record level of state deaths, according to Reggie McClinton, a WDH epidemiologist. “While we did experience a milder season overall, we unfortunately saw 10 flu-related deaths,” he said.
McClinton noted the deaths were more common among older residents, with the median age for residents who died at 72 with five of the reported deaths occurring in people 65 or older than 65.
Influenza vaccines are available in many locations, including local public health offices, workplaces, doctors’ offices and retail stores. “Flu vaccines are not expensive and most insurance policies cover them,” Braund said.
In Wyoming, federal funding covers vaccine costs for many children and adults through WDH-managed programs. Qualified children include those covered by Medicaid, uninsured children, American Indian or Alaska native children. Qualified adults include those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.
It takes about two weeks for flu vaccines to offer protection. “We don’t want people to wait until folks around them are ill,” Braund said.
Basic common-sense measures can also slow the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases. These steps include covering the mouth and nose with sleeves or tissues when sneezing and coughing; frequently washing hands; and staying home from work, school, day care and errands when ill.
More information about vaccine availability and recommendations is available online from WDH at https://health.wyo.gov/publichealth/immunization/2016-17-flu-season/.