It's a little late in the season but the number of reported cases has health officials again urging flu shots.
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County issued an advisory this week "urging residents and visitors to take precautions to limit their risk of exposure to seasonal flu."
That's good advice.
According to the Department of Health's "Florida Flu Review," 42 counties reported increased cases of the virus-caused respiratory ailment during its eighth reporting week for flu season, which typically runs from October to May.
According to the agency's Feb. 21-27 report, 14 counties - including Lee - reported "moderate" activity, 49 counties reported "mild" activity and only four counties reported no activity.
To date, there have been four pediatric deaths due to flu and therein lies the Health Department's get-inoculated warning. For the young, the old and those already ill or immune compromised, the flu can prove to be far more than a headache, fever, cough, runny nose and body aches. The flu can kill.
"An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and 114,000 per year have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza infection. Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age. People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza," the agency reports on its web site.
It's not too late in the "season" to get a flu shot, which officials say is the best protection against the illness. It's also vital to watch for flu or flu-like symptoms, especially for those at risk.
"It is very important for Lee County residents to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine helps to protect you and others from influenza," said Jennifer Roth, DOH-Lee epidemiologist stated in the advisory issued earlier this week. "People who have flu-like symptoms should seek medical care early in the course of illness because medications exist that can reduce the number of days spent with the flu."
The agency also provided the following information:
- Flu vaccines are free for children 6 months old through 18 years at the department's Immunization clinic, 3920 Michigan Avenue, Fort Myers. Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday. Appointments may be made by calling (239) 461-6100. Flu vaccine for adults is $30 -$50. Local health care providers and pharmacies also provide flu vaccine.
- Contact your healthcare provider or visit online at: floridahealth.gov/prevention-safety-and-wellness/flu-prevention/locate-a-flu-shot.html for shot availability.
- For current information regarding influenza surveillance information, messaging and guidance, visit the influenza homepage at: floridahealth.gov/floridaflu.
Good information - and good guidance.
While serious complications are rare for most of us, it's wise to protect yourself - and the ones you love - by getting a flu shot this season.
- Citizen editorial