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Inoculations urged as flu season peaks

By Staff | Jan 21, 2020

Officials with the Florida Department of Health are “strongly encouraging” all unvaccinated residents to get their flu shots as soon as possible.

According to the FDOH, flu activity in Lee County, in December, was moderate and increased throughout the month. And overall, FDOH said flu activity in Southwest Florida has been slightly above levels observed at this time in previous years.

“Influenza is a contagious virus that can spread rapidly in our communities and cause severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death,” said Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, in a statement. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid the flu; it reduces the spread of the virus and can also help make illnesses less severe for those who do still get sick.”

Flu season begins the first week of October and usually peaks in the months of January and February. Last year, Lee County saw an unexpected spike in cases in December, and again saw the numbers rise in February.

In Lee Health facilities this year, there have been 2,360 cases of either Influenza A (H1N1) or B (Victoria lineage). At this time last flu season, there were 1,357 reported cases of the flu (A&B).

Reports come out each Monday from Lee Health, with the a recent week (Dec. 29-Jan. 4) citing 180 cases of Influenza A and 92 of Influenza B.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates at least 6.4 million cases of the flu, with more than 55,000 associated hospitalizations and approximately 2,900 related deaths.

“With this year’s flu season in full swing, it is critical that adults and children get the flu vaccine to protect against infection and help prevent the spread of seasonal flu to others,” said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, in a statement. “By getting a flu shot now, you will protect yourself, as well as your family and friends.”

Officials say the best was to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated – and you still have time.

“It is not too late to get a flu shot if you have not done so already,” said Tammy Yzaguirre, spokesperson with the FDOH. “Flu continues to rise in Lee County and the Florida Department of Health urges everyone to get a flu shot.”

The flu shot is recommend for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant woman, said a release from FDOH. It takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot every year because the virus evolved quickly, and last year’s vaccine may not protect against this year’s strain.

Vaccines are offered at health care providers’ officers, clinics, county health departments, pharmacies, schools, college health centers and from many employers, according to FDOH. You can find a vaccine in your area by using VaccineFinder.org.

Tips to help prevent the flu from FDOH and the CDC include:

– Washing your hands regularly. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

– Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing may prevent those around you from getting sick. Make it a habit to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in your home, school or office.

– Flu vaccine and good hand hygiene are still the go-to recommendations for prevention — however, public health officials say it’s just as important to contain the virus, and that means staying home when you’re sick as well at not visiting hospitals.

– Avoid bringing children under the age of 12 to hospitals when possible.