Hard to believe, flu season is here


Because of the beautiful sunshine coming through your window and the unseasonably warm temperatures outside, it can be easy to forget that it is actually the end of October, Halloween is only a week away, and flu season is here.

Last year at this time, you could not escape a news story about the flu, and that was because the country experienced a severe flu season between October 2012 and April 2013, according to a report published in the Rhode Island Medical Journal.

In fact, “RI Influenza Surveillance Summary 2012-2013,” says there was a total of 831 flu-related hospitalizations during the season: 792 due to Influenza A, 29 due to Influenza B, and 10 due to the 2009 novel strain of H1N1. More than 50 percent of those hospitalizations were individuals over the age of 65.

This year, the story is much different. According to Joseph Wendelken, a communications specialist for the Rhode Island Department of Health, there has been very low flu activity and no flu strain has emerged as a threat. But that doesn’t mean things won’t change as the season continues. On average, the season runs through February.

Even with a slow start to the season, DOH is still encouraging all Rhode Islanders to get their flu vaccine. This year’s vaccine provides protection against three flu viruses: two Influenza A strains (a version of H1N1 and H3N2) and one Influenza B strain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, even if a different strain of flu becomes prominent, the flu shot can still provide protection.

So take a few minutes out of your day to step inside a local pharmacy or free clinic to get your flu shot. If you have a doctor’s appointment in the coming weeks, check if they will give you one while you are there.

As for kids, every school has had or will have a free flu shot clinic so they can get their shot. A lot of them are allowing family members to get the shot at that time, too.

While it may be tempting to be lulled by this gorgeous weather and forget that the long, cold winter is inevitable, we can’t afford to forget to take precautions against the flu. Although staying in bed for a week sounds amazing to most, suffering from the flu while doing it is not. And if a one-second prick of a needle in the local pharmacy is all it takes to avoid it, sign us up.


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