Employee & Community Health

Beating the flu: It's not too late to get vaccinated!

12/21/2017 by Dr. Robert M. Jacobson and Jennifer Brickley, RN

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So far this season, the Minnesota Department of Health reports that, due to influenza (flu), we have had 237 hospitalizations, 17 school outbreaks and nine long-term care facility outbreaks due to influenza, as of December 9. That means our state is seeing regional geographic spread, unlike some southern states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and some eastern states such as Virginia and Connecticut. Three states — Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina — already are seeing high levels of influenza-like illness. CDC officials report that the U.S. is seeing far more cases than usual this time of year. 

Every year in the U.S., anywhere from 10 to 60 million people get the flu. It's a respiratory illness. In its classic form, it shows up as a sudden fever and sore throat or a sore throat and a cough. Children also may have a runny nose. Both children and adults may have headache, muscle aches and weakness. Flu can spread from person to person through sneezing, coughing, talking, touching and by contaminating surfaces with secretions from sneezing and coughing. People can get severe complications from the flu, whether they have underlying illness or not. 

There is still time for you and your loved ones to get vaccinated against the flu this season! Everyone should get the flu vaccine every year, there are very few exceptions. All of our practice sites carry the flu vaccine. Call your care team's appointment number and set up a nurse visit to address the flu vaccination needs of you and your family. 

Reports from Australia show that one of this year's vaccine strains may only work 10% of the time. We won't know for certain until later in the year. You should still get vaccinated. Ten percent is better than the zero percent that you get from not vaccinating. In addition, the vaccine not only prevents disease, but decreases the severity in those who get the flu despite vaccination. 

Remember to share with your care team if you got your influenza vaccine from a non-Mayo source. You can just tell us if you got the flu vaccine; we'll enter it into your medical record, which will help you avoid unnecessary communication about getting the flu shot. 

During the flu season, take these symptoms seriously. If you have a fever and sore throat, it might be the flu. Or it might be strep. We will test for strep, but will skip the more expensive test for the flu unless you are so sick we need to hospitalize you or you have risk factors that call for antiviral medications. Call your health care team to discuss your symptoms and your care. 

Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a primary care pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and is the medical director for the ECH Immunization Program. 

Jennifer L. Brickley is a registered nurse in ECH and coordinator for the ECH Immunization Program.