Peak influenza season is rapidly approaching, and Barton County Health Department Director Karen Winkelman said that means it is the perfect time to consider getting the influenza vaccine if you have not already done so.
Winkelman said most strains of influenza usually peak in late December through January, particularly after a holiday season full of large gatherings.
There are several preparations of the influenza vaccine, which are administered on an age-appropriate basis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the vaccine for all adults and children 6 months and older.
Winkelman said the health department has all preparations of the vaccine available on a walk-in basis at the health department at 1300 Kansas Ave. during regular office hours, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, and 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It is also available through several area pharmacies and health care providers, as well.
The influenza vaccine is not a live vaccine, she said, which means receiving a flu shot will not give you influenza. Typically, adverse reactions to the influenza vaccine are not expected beyond some possible arm tenderness at the injection site. All flu vaccines are designed to protect against four different influenza strains, according to the CDC.
However, the CDC recommends those with allergies to any ingredients in the vaccine, including egg proteins, antibiotics or gelatin products, or those who have had allergic reactions to the flu vaccine in the past, should talk to their health-care provider before receiving the flu vaccine.
The CDC also notes the vaccine can be safely given at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccines.
Because the vaccine usually takes about two weeks to be fully effective, getting the vaccine now, prior to family holiday gatherings, is particularly important before flu season ramps up, Winkelman said.
So far, the health department has not seen any positive cases of influenza, she said, but that does not necessarily mean no cases of the flu have occurred. Influenza is not required to be reported to the health department by health-care providers, so it is possible other providers have seen positive flu cases.
Typically, though, when the health department runs tests for COVID-19, the state lab where they submit tests also tests for influenza. None of those tests have come back positive for influenza so far.
Winkelman is hopeful that additional health and sanitation precautions implemented as COVID-19 protocols have helped in minimizing the impact of influenza, as well. As with any illness, Winkelman advises taking additional precautions to help protect yourself from the flu.
“(We recommend) hand washing, stay home when you’re sick, wear a mask (in public settings),” she said.
For additional questions about the flu vaccine contact the health department, 620-793-1902.