There’s a scary story coming out of Australia that ought to raise the eyebrows of people living here in Jackson County.
No, the scares don’t involve stereotypical frights from the Land Down Under like snakes or sharks or saltwater crocodiles. They instead involve something much smaller but in the big picture much more dangerous to humans: the flu virus.
Flu season is upon us, and Melissa McKnight, deputy health director at the Jackson County Department of Public Health, has been busy banging the drum urging folks here to get vaccinated.
“The best form of protection against the flu is vaccination,” McKnight said. “It’s also important to know that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies that protect against the influenza virus infection to develop in the body, so it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
More than 200 influenza cases were reported in Jackson from Sept. 2018 to May of this year. No deaths were reported here.
So what does Australia have to do with anything?
This: Australia had a severe flu season in 2017. It was something of a preview of the flu season in this country six months later.
That flu season of 2017-18 saw 79,000 Americans die from the flu, marking it as one of the worst seasons on record.
This year there are warning signs of a repeat, as Australia suffered an early and severe flu season.
It may not be a harbinger of what’s headed our way.
But then again, it might be.
Thus, getting a flu shot could be even more critical this year.
Flu is spread through the air and through touch. When sick people cough, sneeze or talk, it spreads the virus in the form of respiratory droplets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can also pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces or objects sick people have touched and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Those particularly at risk are young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and those with compromised health from conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
But a note to the young and invincible who think they don’t need the vaccine: It isn’t just about you. Sure, you might be able to skip vaccination, roll the dice and ride out the flu. But if you get it, you’re also a carrier who can expose loved ones in the aforementioned group.
Simple precautions are also in order as we head into flu season. “Everyday preventative actions that can help protect against the flu include staying away from those who are sick and washing your hands frequently,” McKnight said.
The CDC recommends vaccinations take place before flu activity begins and that healthcare providers continue to offer vaccines throughout flu season and encourage their patients to take the inoculation.
If caught early, antiviral drugs can be prescribed to reduce symptoms and shorten the length of illness. Antivirals may also prevent complications like pneumonia.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine.
Jackson County Department of Public Health began providing flu vaccines on Oct. 1. The clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m.
Immunization costs range from $35 to $60, depending on the type of vaccine. No appointment is necessary, and most insurance is accepted.
It’s time and money well spent.