Get Your Flu Shot Before the Flu Gets You!
Washington Urgent Care Now Offering the 2013-2014 Flu Vaccine
That sniffling, sneezing, coughing season is just around the corner. You can do your part to avoid the flu this year by getting a flu shot and following some simple guidelines.
Seasonal influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by influenza viruses that infect the respiratory tract. Every year, an estimated 5 to 20 percent of the population gets sick with the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
"The timing of the flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season,” says Dr. Sarkis Banipalsin, Medical Director of the Washington Urgent Care Clinic. “Flu activity most commonly peaks in January or February, however, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Flu vaccines must be administered on a yearly basis because a person's immunity declines over the course of a year. Also, flu viruses often change from year to year, so vaccines created for flu viruses circulating last year may not provide protection against this year's viruses.
Because it takes about two weeks to develop immunity after vaccination, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated as early in the fall as possible.
The CDC is recommending flu vaccinations this year for everyone over the age of 6 months. Because children younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated, the people who care for them should be vaccinated instead. Vaccinations also are important for healthcare workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people.
"Vaccination of people who are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu is especially important," Dr. Banipalsin says. "Complications might include serious sinus or ear infections, pneumonia, lung inflammation, severe dehydration and worsening of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease."
People considered to be at high risk include:
- Children under age 5 - and especially those under 2 years old
- People over age 65
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, liver disorders and kidney disorders
People who have a weakened immune system because of diseases such as cancer or HIV are also at high risk for complications," Dr. Banipalsin cautions. "The flu can easily put these patients in a very dangerous situation."
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. The CDC cautions that healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, including children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
"If you do get sick with the flu, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible," Dr. Banipalsin says. "There are prescription antiviral drugs available that can reduce the severity of the illness and shorten the duration, but it's important to use these drugs within the first couple of days after the onset of symptoms."
Symptoms of the flu may include:
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
“Less often, a person might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose,” Dr. Banipalsin adds. “This is why washing your hands often with soap and water and trying to avoid close contact with sick people is so important. But getting a flu vaccine is really your 'best shot' for avoiding the flu."
Get a Flu Shot Today
Washington Urgent Care Clinic (www.whhs.com/urgentcare) is located in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Suite 212, in Fremont. For information about flu vaccine availability and clinic hours, call 510-791-CARE.
Washington On Wheels Mobile Health Clinic is also offering flu shots at four different locations in the Tri-City area. For more information, call (510) 608-3203 or visit www.whhs.com/wow. For more information about flu vaccinations and flu prevention, visit www.cdc.gov.