For one Wetumpka pharmacist, this time of the year means giving flu shots — and lots of them.
“We’ve given a lot of shots just (Thursday), probably 15 to 20,” Adams Drugs pharmacist Ashley Sellers said. “It takes two days after getting the shot for it to get in your system. Get it now to prepare for later.”
Sellers’ warning is backed up by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For the 2019-20 flu season, the CDC recommends people get the vaccination by the end of October. The CDC indicated vaccinating in July or August may lead to reduced protection against the virus for older adults.
Sellers indicated the pharmacy has not recently prescribed antiviral medications like Tamiflu which is used to treat symptoms caused by the flu virus.
According to information provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) for Sept. 15-21, the northern and east central districts are reporting “significant” influenza activity.
The eastern central district includes Elmore, Autauga, Bullock, Chambers, Coosa, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Russell and Tallapoosa counties.
The northern district is made up of Colbert, Cullman, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston counties.
The timing of flu season varies each year but the CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older getting a flu vaccine by the end of October.
Vaccinations are especially important for those at risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, people 65 years and older, healthcare workers and those who live with high-risk people.
Auburn nursing professor Linda Gibson-Young has a specific warning for people who vape as they could face major challenges if they were to get the flu.
“The lungs are still developing until the age of 22, and when patients are introducing the electronic vapor into the lung tissue we are seeing significant concerns,” she said.
“The lung tissue is very thick and viscous, which is similar to a cystic fibrosis patient. Having the thick mucus is problematic because it’s difficult to get rid of viruses, bacteria and often harbors into what we term as pneumonia in the lung tissue.”
The flu virus is very dangerous for the elderly and school-aged children. Thousands of children younger than 5 years of age are hospitalized with severe symptoms every year.
According to CDC data, more than 26 million people caught the virus from October 2018 to May 2019.
If you suddenly start feeling bad — your body aches, you are feverish, your head is stuffy and you are sneezing — see your doctor immediately because you may have the flu.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, aching muscles, chills and sweats, cough, fatigue, nasal congestion and sore throat. The symptoms are present around two days after exposure to the virus.
People with the flu are the most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, though children are capable of transmitting the illness for as long as a week.
The ADPH recommends people take the following steps to guard against the flu.
• Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.
• Wash your hands after handling trash, being in contact with sick people or touching door knobs.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper sleeve.
• Stay at home if you have a fever.
• Keep a supply of fever/pain reducing and cold/flu medications.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched — door knobs, water faucet handles, phones and food preparation surfaces, for example.
• If you are sick, keep a record of your fever or other symptoms, get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids like water, broth and sports drinks.
• Call your doctor if symptoms get worse. Symptoms to be aware of include difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever or worsened cough.
For additional information, call the ADPH Immunization Division at 800-469-4599 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.