It’s flu season in Oxford

Dr. Christy Jacob and six-year-old Kylee Toomer are ready and hoping not to catch ‘the flu’ this year. -Photo provided.

The flu season is upon us. Influenza activity is elevated nation-wide.
The Center for Disease Control estimates there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses and 2,900 flu deaths nationwide since Oct. 1. Influenza is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
The geographic spread of the flu in Michigan went from “regional” to “widespread” status, the highest of five classifications, between Dec. 21 and Dec. 28, according to the Michigan Department of Human Health and Services (MDHHS). “Widespread” means outbreaks have occurred in over half of the state’s four regions. In the southeast region (including Oxford) Influenza B activity is very high with sharp increases; Influenza A is high and increasing.
Still, it is “absolutely not too late to get the flu shot,” says Christy Jacob, a physician assistant at Glennan Medical Group in Oxford. The flu season has been steady in her office so far. “We are seeing a couple cases every day,” she said.
In a poll, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 37% of adults in the U.S. do not plan to get a flu shot this season. Concerns about side effects and beliefs that the vaccine is not effective were the top reasons survey participants gave for not getting the vaccine.
Jacob acknowledges that people who have been vaccinated can still get the flu and there is a potential side effect of flu-like symptoms, but it is a misconception that the flu shot can give you the flu. The flu vaccine is a dead vaccine, which means it only contains viruses that are dead or inactive. “Unfortunately, some will actually develop flu type symptoms as a reaction to the flu vaccine, however, it cannot give you the flu.”
The CDC recommends vaccination for those 6 months and older. “However,” Jacob cautions, “people who are moderately to severely ill should wait until they are feeling better before receiving the flu vaccine. People considered high risk, including the very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable, and should consider getting the flu vaccine.”
Jacob said another misconception about the vaccine is the belief that it protects against the stomach flu. In fact, the vaccine only targets influenza, the respiratory flu. Its symptoms include coughing and congestion. Despite the common name, the stomach flu (gastroenteritis) isn’t caused by the influenza virus. Its symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea.
A third misunderstanding is that the shot gives immediate protection against the flu. In reality, it takes about two weeks to develop protection against the flu after getting the vaccine. So it will not make you immune if you get the vaccine after a family member contracts the flu.
In addition to getting the flu shot, Jacob recommends common sense precautions like handwashing, coughing into your sleeve instead of your hand, staying hydrated, and staying away from others who have symptoms.
Established patients of Glennan Medical can get a flu shot there. Otherwise folks can go to local pharmacies or, if they are uninsured, the walk-in clinic at North Oakland Health Center, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Building 34 East, Pontiac for $24.

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