It’s not here yet but it’s coming, and this week is designed to serve as a reminder. It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week and if you haven’t received a flu shot yet….it’s not too late. Keep in mind, Arizona is coming off a rough flu season where our state often had more flu cases than any other state in the nation.
The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 49 flu cases from nine different counties last week, so the numbers are still low – but that doesn’t mean we’re in for a mild flu season. As you can see in the accompanying infographic, our state didn’t get hit hard until after the new year last flu season.
And while Arizona is still about a month away from peak flu season, medical experts are advising residents to get vaccinated “sooner rather than later” to head off the virus.
“The best way to protect yourself from influenza is to get vaccinated,” said Jessica Rigler, branch chief for public health preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Rigler said the peak influenza season for the state typically falls in the beginning of the year – January, February and March.
To date, Arizona has confirmed 117 flu cases; Yavapai County has confirmed 15, the highest in the state next to Pima County, said David McAtee, public information officer for the Yavapai County Community Health Services department.
Those figures likely seem low, but as McAtee explains only about 5 percent of all flu victims actually get tested such that the case is then documented to state health authorities. Many people who get the flu just try and “power through” rather than seek medical treatment. Flu numbers also spike just before and after the holidays, but the season can last through early spring, he said.
If you’re looking for a flu shot clinic in your neighborhood, check out Arizona 211 or Stop the Spread AZ. While the shot isn’t a guarantee against getting the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it can reduce the risk by 50%-to-60%. The CDC added that the flu “causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States.” Older adults and children are particularly vulnerable.
Let us know what’s going on with the flu in your community. Have you already received a flu shot? Are you planning to get one? Or have you decided to skip it this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts on why you are or are not getting a flu shot. Generating conversations around the important health topics affecting our state is another way we are working toward one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!