Leader & Times
The flu resulted in an estimated 9 million to 41 million illnesses in the U.S. between 2010 and 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and seasonal influenza leads to an estimated 650,000 deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Statistics also show the estimated average annual economic burden of influenza to the U.S. health care system and society was $11.2 billion in 2015.
Flu shot season will be coming up soon, and the Seward County Health Department (SCHD) is preparing for it.
“We don't have the flu vaccines yet, but they will be shipped soon, and we should be getting them toward the end of September. We will start offering our flu shots at the beginning of October – we're not sure when exactly since they haven't been shipped yet, but around the beginning of October is when we typically start,” Seward County Health Department Registered Nurse Lesha Morlen said. “I would heavily recommend people keep an eye on our Facebook page, Seward County Health Department, because we will post on there when exactly we'll start offering flu shots, along with a lot of other information. With the flu shots, there's no appointment necessary, people can walk in and get them. We will also be hosting some flu clinics for businesses in town who do that for their employees. We always highly recommend getting a flu shot because getting a flu shot will help slow the spread of the flu. It doesn't prevent you from getting the flu, but it will help lessen the severity of the symptoms and help things not feel so bad.”
There are four types of influenza viruses, types A, B, C and D. Influenza A and B viruses circulate and cause seasonal epidemics of disease, according to the WHO.
“Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes according to the combinations of the hemagglutinin (HA) and the neuraminidase (NA), the proteins on the surface of the virus. Currently circulating in humans are subtype A(H1N1) and A(H3N2) influenza viruses. The A(H1N1) is also written as A(H1N1)pdm09 as it caused the pandemic in 2009 and subsequently replaced the seasonal influenza A(H1N1) virus which had circulated prior to 2009. Only influenza type A viruses are known to have caused pandemics,” the WHO noted. “Influenza B viruses are not classified into subtypes, but can be broken down into lineages. Currently circulating influenza type B viruses belong to either B/Yamagata or B/Victoria lineage. Influenza C virus is detected less frequently and usually causes mild infections, thus does not present public health importance. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people.”
Morlen added encouragement for people to visit their primary physician if their case is particularly severe.
“I would recommend people visit their primary care physician and not the health department because we don't have a doctor on site here, so a primary care physician would be the best,” Morlen said. “People can also visit Xpress Wellness if they need to visit a doctor. Or, if it's mild enough, people can stay home and treat their symptoms there, which we recommend anyway if people are sick because we don't want people to be out and about spreading the flu. It is hard to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 since the symptoms are pretty similar, so without testing, you don't know for sure if it's COVID-19 or the flu or both. Like with any other illness, stay home if you're not feeling well and treat your symptoms and make sure to keep yourself clean.”
According to the WHO, seasonal influenza is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise, sore throat and a runny nose. The cough can be severe and can last two or more weeks, and most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring medical attention.
Morlen said she and the rest of the SCHD staff have high expectations for flu shots for this season.
“We never really know what to expect any given year, but we do typically have quite a good turnout of people wanting to get the flu shot,” Morlen said. “The flu shot is for people ages 6 months old and older, and for people 65 years old and older, we have what's called a high-dose flu shot, which is a little more of a vaccine since they're at a higher risk of serious complications. We always have a really good response and people in the area are actually really good about coming in and getting their flu shots, so those numbers are already pretty high every year. We anticipate that happening for this year too. We are a walk-in clinic, so again, there's no need for an appointment. However, we only do walk-ins until 4 p.m. because we do have regularly scheduled appointments around that time, and we do want to make sure we see everyone who comes in.”
Morlen also offered encouragement for people to get their flu shot earlier rather than later.
“If you get your flu shot at the beginning of the flu season, it will help protect you the entire time. For us, we'll have just the Fluzone vaccine shot, we don't do the flu mist,” Morlen said. “I will also say, for children up to 9 years old, it's also a two-dose vaccine, and the doses have to be given one month apart, so that's another reason people should think about coming in sooner rather than later. We encourage everyone possible to come in and get a flu shot, it's great protection against the flu.”