MOUNT VERNON — When the weather gets colder, the incidence of influenza like illnesses usually starts to increase. And that’s the case this year. The Knox County Health Department reports it is seeing an increase in flu cases and health officials stress that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
“We’ve had several reports of confirmed cases of influenza which are occurring a bit earlier than in the past,” said Jackie Fletcher, RN, director of nursing for the health department. “And several patients have the H1N1 strain.”
The H1N1 flu first started appearing in the U.S. during the 2009-10 flu season and required an additional vaccine besides the regular flu vaccine. The good news this year is that the H1N1 flu is one of three flu strains that are covered in the current vaccine.
“There’s no need to get an additional shot this year, you just need to get a regular flu shot,” said Fletcher. “And there’s still time to get a shot before the big increase in flu activity.”
The health department has been offering flu shots since early September, a month earlier than in years past. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention urged health care providers to make the vaccine available to the public as soon as they received it this year,” explained Fletcher, “which caught some of our regular patients off guard. But it was a good move since we are seeing an earlier presence of the flu in Knox County.”
The health department offers vaccine for adults and children, ages 6 months and older. The vaccine is available as a nasal spray for children ages 2-18 years; all others will receive the vaccine as a shot.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza. “With the availability of flu vaccine at grocery stores and pharmacies, there’s really no excuse not to get a flu shot this year. It really is your best defense against getting the flu,” said Fletcher. “The health department is the only place offering the vaccine in the form of nasal spray for children. For adults, the flu shot is the same vaccine wherever you get one. The important thing is to get one.”
For more information, call the health department medical clinic at 399-8009.