It's that time of year. As many are mingling with large numbers of people while shopping, attending parties, participating in religious celebrations or traveling, the risk for encountering someone infected with influenza increases. At the same time, the influenza virus is beginning to affect more people as the winter flu season approaches its peak weeks for infection in Tennessee.
''We all want to protect the people we love, and as we approach the time when risk for influenza infection is greatest, don't we want to make sure we don't give anyone a preventable illness?'' said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. ''Life-saving flu vaccine is so easy to get and is available all over. It's not too late to put it on your list as a gift that really honors the sacred spirit of this wonderful season.''
"The annual influenza virus season is really just beginning in Tennessee, so getting a flu shot now can still help your body build immunity against this common viral infection, '' said Kelly Moore, MD, director of the Tennessee Immunization Program. "While some may think the flu is nothing more than a bad cold, that's not the case : it can be deadly. Each year we see Tennesseans lose family members and friends to influenza. We urge those who have not yet received their vaccine to go to a county health department, their healthcare provider or a pharmacy to get a flu shot now."
To find a county health department near you, visit: https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments.html There is a sliding-fee scale for the vaccine at health departments. You may be eligible for free or reduced cost influenza vaccine. Many insurance plans cover the immunization at no charge while many clinicians and pharmacies offer it at minimal cost to those without health insurance.
"Unlike some vaccines that provide years of protection, the flu vaccine is regularly updated to protect against new strains and must be given each season,'' Moore said. ''If you haven't had a flu shot in the last six months, it's time to get this season's flu vaccine now. We believe this year's vaccine will be effective against flu strains now circulatiing.''
Jan Beville, MD, Medical Director for TDH Division of Community Health Services said people who get the vaccine help to protect not just themselves, but others who may not be able to get immunized.
"When more people are immunized, there are fewer place for the flu virus to live," Beville said. "That's important because some people with certain health conditions are not able to receive the vaccine. By increasing the number of people who cannot transmit the virus, we can significantly reduce the risk of flu illness among others."
For more information about influenza, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.