A particularly bad flu virus is burning through Florida and health officials say people can still protect themselves—and others.
“Getting vaccinated can prevent flu in yourself, but it also may prevent flu in people who you are not infecting,” says Dr. Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Especially for young children or people who are at high risk of flu, it's very important that people around them are vaccinated.”
“By washing your hands, by covering your cough, by not going to work or school if you have the flu, you're reducing the possibility that you're going to spread flu to someone else. And in in turn, that can interrupt cycles of influenza where a whole family will get sick, or where whole school classrooms will be exposed to influenza and get sick as well,” says Flannery.
Already nearly 30 children in the U.S., two of whom were in Florida, have died from complications of the flu. Pregnant women, the elderly, young children and people with other underlying health problems are at much greater risk of suffering the worst flu symptoms—which can lead to hospitalization and death. In a bad year, flu can cause about as many deaths as car crashes do.
This year’s flu vaccine hasn’t been as effective at preventing the virus as Flannery and other public health officials would want. However, he says, there’s still value to getting it.
“Even if it works less well against the virus that’s circulating now, it still can provide protection later in the season if other influenza viruses circulate,” Flannery says. And research has shown that, among hospitalized patients, the virus isn't as bad if the person has gotten the shot.
In addition to county health departments, the Florida Department of Health has assembled a list of places to get the flu shot:
- American Lung Association
- Benzer Pharmacy
- CVS Pharmacy
- Maxim Health System
- MD Now
- The Medicine Shoppe
- Passport Health
- Walgreens Pharmacy
- Winn Dixie