Flu season has officially been underway for over two months yet many residents have not received this year’s vaccine. December through February is the typical peak for influenza, and with the vaccination taking effect after about two weeks, it’s time now to protect your health as well as our community’s health.
In the past, I had always opted out of the flu vaccine. I felt that as a healthy, young adult, I could easily ward off the influenza virus. I had very few, albeit delirious, memories of the illness throughout my life and figured I needn’t worry about much more than common colds come winter.
However, I am one individual interlaced in a community dependent on me being flu-free, and some confidence in my immune system isn’t proper assurance. My loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, even strangers on the street all stand to benefit from me being healthy, from me being vaccinated.
Each season, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized because of flu-related complications. Colorado has confirmed 10 cases already, and flu-like symptoms are reported continuously to health care providers. (Flu prevalence in Colorado is measured by number of hospitalizations and pediatric deaths.)
The flu is droplet-spread and it can even survive on surfaces. Adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some folks do not display symptoms when infected and easily spread the highly contagious illness.
The first and most important step in protecting yourself this season is with the flu vaccine. By now, chances are you’ve already been exposed to the virus and a vaccine will stimulate mild flu symptoms. A stigma with the vaccine, this experience is actually common and will usually last only one to two days.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. This boost will not only decrease the severity and duration of any illnesses you may encounter this winter, but it will give all of those around you a better chance at being healthy as well.
Our most vulnerable populations bear the burden of the flu season. In recent years in the U.S., it was estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the flu-related deaths were in those 65 or older and more than 20,000 children 5 years or younger were hospitalized because of flu complications.
This season, treat yourself and our community to the gift of health with the safeguard of a flu vaccine. San Juan Basin Health has a limited supply of specialized flu vaccines, including high-dose flu shots for seniors and preservative-free vaccines for pregnant women. Additionally, SJBH can provide flu shots for eligible children and adults who qualify for federally supported vaccines if they are unable to receive them from their primary care provider.
Appointments in Durango can be scheduled Tuesday through Thursday by calling 335-2013, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
Appointments in Pagosa Springs are available the first Thursday of every month. Call 264-2409, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule.
Lauren Pope is Assessment Planning and Communications specialist at San Juan Basin Health Department.