On Dec. 22, a 21-year-old personal trainer/bodybuilder in Pennsylvania told his family he “felt like crap.” By Dec. 28 he was dead from organ failure due to septic shock caused by influenza. California hospitals are setting up tents in parking lots to handle the overflow of patients. Medical facilities in Oregon are pushed to capacity.
This flu season is starting to get nasty. This year’s cycle started earlier than normal and some experts expect it to be worse than the 2009 flu season, which had the very serious H1N1 strain, or as Scientific American puts it, the flu we have this year, H3N2 – or Australian flu, is the problem child of seasonal flu.
In an interview with SA, the head of the influenza division from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Daniel Jernigan said, “We just know, over the last several years, while new have an H3 season, it’s unfortunately causing worse disease. But also the vaccine’s effectiveness is not as high as the other components. And for that reason, even though you’ve been vaccinated, you still can get infected.
The CDC does say that the effectiveness of this season’s vaccine might be as low as only 10 percent in fighting infections. It’s normally around 30 percent. But still, health officials say the best way to fight the flu is to get vaccinated against it. It can take up to two weeks before the antibodies that fight the flu develop. Flu season really kicks in hard by February and can last through May.
The VA is suggesting that anyone six months or older should get the flu shot this year. But if you’re pregnant, a caregiver for infants or other family members, have asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease or if you’re over the age of 65, you should most definitely get the shot this year.
If you’re enrolled in VA health care, you can go to your local VA medical center to get your shot. VA also has a partnership with Walgreens to offer no cost flu shots for vets who are enrolled in the VA health system. In fact, your immunization record will automatically be updated as well. No appointment is required, just go to any Walgreens, and tell the pharmacist that you get care at a VA facility. You’ll have to show some form of ID that can prove this.
The VA however, does not vaccinate family members. You can easily find a place to get a shot by putting your zip code into the CDC’s flu vaccine finder, here. The VA also has a flu self-assessment to help you figure out if you have a cold or the flu. And finally, here’s another link to a VA page that gives you flu symptoms, supplies you should keep on hand to help manage the sickness a bit better, and signs that tell you that it’s time to go to the doctor.