Primary Care Physician Dr. Michael Daubner and Bradley County Health Department Director Eloise Waters said it is not too late to receive the flu shot.
Daubner was quick to add it is not possible for individuals to contract influenza from the vaccination.
According to the CDC, flu vaccines administered with a needle either hold flu viruses that have been inactivated and are thus not infectious or no flu virus.
Common side effects of the vaccine include soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Additional side effects might include an initial low-grade fever, headache or muscle aches.
Nasal spray vaccines are also available at the health department for children. These vaccines are also incapable of infecting recipients with the flu.
The CDC said viruses within the spray are attenuated, or weakened. They are also only created to cause, “mild infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose.” Common side effects include runny nose, nasal congestion and a cough.
Daubner said the flu season traditionally lasts into March.
“Typically people think influenza is a winter time sickness, but that is just because everyone is in close proximity,” Daubner said. “The virus is more active because everyone is inside.”
Waters said January and February have traditionally been the worst months for the flu in the Bradley County area.
Both health professionals said it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to reach full protection.
Daubner explained the vaccine works by building up the body’s antibodies. These antibodies provide protection against the influenza strands selected for the year’s vaccines.
The seasonal flu vaccine’s strands are determined by “surveillance-based forecasts” about which viruses are most prevalent.
According to Daubner, a majority of the outbreaks this year have been influenza A, the 2009 H1N1 strand. He said those who received the vaccine in 2009 should receive a booster shot.
The other two flu viruses addressed by the vaccine are an influenza A (H3N2) virus, antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011, and a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus.
“A good thing is the flu vaccine they developed [for this year] is a good match,” Daubner said. “It does not cover everything, but it is a good match.”
Flu vaccines are available at a variety of locations in the Cleveland and Bradley County area.
Waters said those interested are welcomed as walk-ins. They will be seen after the regularly scheduled patients.
She also said individuals without the ability to pay may receive no fee for the shot. It depends on information received from the potential patient, like the annual income.
Both Daubner and Waters urged everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to practice good hygiene.
A 10-foot rule will help lower the chances of catching the flu or acting as a carrier.
“If someone looks sick, if they are coughing, if they are hacking or sneezing, maintain your distance and practice good hand-washing technique,” Daubner said. “I am sure you have seen pictures of some coughs and sneezes, all those particles are projected out ...”
Flu outbreaks are often caused by infected individuals interacting with the general public, whether at work or church.
“A lot in this area is spread by folks who go to church. A lot of folks feel really strongly about church and don’t want to miss it,” Daubner said. “I tell them if they are sick, please do not go to church. God will understand. Don’t spread it at church.”
He pointed out most churches have elderly people, children and pregnant women who are all susceptible to influenza. Members with cancer, diabetes and other health risks could be infected as well.
Waters warned there will be an increase in the number of flu cases once school resumes.
Daubner reminded it is important to take antiviral medicine for the flu — not antibiotics.
“There has been a big push by the CDC the past year or two not to use or provide unnecessary antibiotics,” Daubner said. “It creates a problem of resistance if you are using antibiotics when you do not need them.”