Mountain States: Flu cases are increasing in the region

(Source: WKRN)

JOHNSON CITY, TN – During the holiday season, experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are anticipating a spike in flu cases, with a continued increase during flu season.

To protect the community, Mountain States Health Alliance is urging everyone to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.

“Flu is a very serious illness, and it is crucial that everyone is protected,” said Jamie Swift, director of infection prevention for Mountain States. “Every year, we see hospitalizations and deaths from the flu here in our region. This flu season, there have already been five pediatric deaths in the U.S. due to flu. We want to do everything we can to prevent serious complications like this, and widespread vaccination is the best way to do that.”

This week is also National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was established by the CDC to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. A vaccination is recommended for everyone over six months old, especially pregnant women, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system.

Flu season typically begins in October and runs through March. Since Oct. 1, Mountain States hospitals have recorded 80 positive flu cases.

“We’re expecting a fairly severe flu season,” said Swift. “It’s still early to make a specific prediction, but all indications point to high flu activity, so it’s important that people start getting their flu vaccine now.”

There are several convenient, low-cost locations where people can get a flu shot. The vaccinations are available at primary care offices – including Mountain States Medical Group primary care – and many commercial pharmacies. All Mountain States Pharmacy and First Assist Urgent Care locations offer flu shots for anyone 9 years old and above. Patients can just walk in, or they can schedule an appointment. Flu shots are covered by most insurance plans, but cost $25 at Mountain States Pharmacy and First Assist Urgent Care if paid out of pocket. You could also contact your local health department for information on flu shots.

For information on Mountain States locations, visit www.MountainStatesHealth.com.

“A common myth is that the flu shot can give you the flu,” said Swift. “That is absolutely false. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Instead, the flu vaccine acts by allowing your immune system to create the ability to fight the flu in case you are exposed. When your immune system kicks into gear making antibodies, your body’s natural response can involve fatigue, soreness and even mild fever. This is your immune system doing its job, and should only last a day or so. Most people have no reaction at all, other than mild soreness in the arm where the shot was administered.”

To help make your flu shot experience easier, you can take Tylenol or ibuprofen if you experience mild side effects from the vaccine, which typically last only a day or two.

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