While the start of football season is occupying the thoughts of many these days, there’s another season beginning soon that deserves just as much attention, if not more.
Flu season is actually year-round, but the acute period generally begins in October and runs through May of each year, give or take a month or two depending where you live.
Dr. John Lanza is Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. He and other health officials are calling for everyone over six months of age to get vaccinated.
“Flu is a totally preventable disease in most situations,” Lanza says. “Definitely, children should get it, anyone with underlying immune issues – HIV, cancer, diabetes, or on immune medications like steroids.
Lanza says upwards of 140 million doses will be available by injection, and not through the nasal spray. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending not getting the spray at least for this year, pending any changes by the manufacturer.
“[The CDC] did a study from 2013-15,” said Lanza. “They found that the rate of protection was three percent to 20 percent, when it should be 60-90 percent depending on how old you are and how good your immune system is.”
The two vaccines available this year are the Tri valent, or three-component, and the Quadra valent, or four-component. They’re designed for three influenza strains: A-California, A-Hong Kong, and B-Brisbane.
There are no concrete figures on the number of flu cases or related deaths, because influenza, says Lanza, is a non-reportable disease in the United States.
“The problem is, if this were a reportable disease, that is all the health departments would do,” Lanza said.” They wouldn’t do anything else but flu epidemiology, which is looking for diseases. Why would a cold not be a reportable disease, there’s so much of it? If you had to report it, that’s all you would do.”
In Florida, there’s a physicians’ surveillance program, in which doctors collect nasal swabs from patients showing flu symptoms – fever, body aches, headaches and a general run-down feeling.
And besides getting your flu shot, DOH-Escambia’s Dr. John Lanza says there’s one other basic form of self-protection.
“Always wash your hands,” said Lanza. “And if you’re sick or someone around you is sick, don’t go to work. Or ask them not to go to work.”