LACONIA — Warm weather gave Lakes Region residents a delay of winter woes. That reprieve ends this week, with temperatures snapping back to seasonal levels. January also marks the beginning of flu season, and local health officials say it still makes sense for those who put off getting vaccinated to get a shot.
Flu shots are available at primary care offices, community health centers and at many local pharmacies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.
Susan Laverack, of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, said the flu season peaks in January and February each year.
“It’s still not too late to get your flu shot,” she urged, noting that it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to provide protection against infection.
According to the CDC, immunizations this flu season are about on pace with the prior two seasons, with roughly 40 percent of the overall population vaccinated by November. In the prior two flu seasons, the number rose to near 50 percent by the end of the season.
Children are more likely than adults to be immunized, the data shows, with nearly 60 percent vaccinated by the end of the season. There has been a concerted effort to provide vaccinations for local children.
The Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health worked with the NH Immunization Program to again offer flue shot clinics in 12 local schools. LRGHealthcare, HealthFirst and local visiting nurse associations also assisted.
Every year that the clinics have been run, Laverack said, participation has increased, and this year was 20 percent and higher, up to 30 percent at one school.
“It always helps when little kiddos are immune,” she said, noting that schoolchildren are a prime means for the virus to migrate from one family to another. “The little guys with their running noses, putting things in their mouth, all of that.”
“Every year, it goes up,” she said, adding that she would like to see as many as 40 percent of local schoolchildren vaccinated each year. “The more, the better – that’s herd immunity.” She wasn’t able to say how many of the children who didn’t get the flu shot at school had already been immunized elsewhere. According to national data for the 2015-16 flu season, reported by the CDC, 63.7 percent of children who got the flu shot received it at their doctor’s office, while only 6.2 percent got the shot at school. Only third of adults who were vaccinated did so at their doctor’s office, while a quarter of them were administered the shot at a pharmacy.
Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is something that benefits the individual as well as the rest of society. Not only does immunization mean that a single person is less likely to get sick; that person is also not likely to pass the virus on to someone else. In some cases, a case of the flu could lead to lost work and lost wages, perhaps even a lost job.
“Not everybody, after consultation with their medical provider, can get it ... It’s not just for you, it’s for the community around you,” said Laverack.
The seasonal flu virus is spread by droplets that an infected person emits when coughing, sneezing or talking. Simple precautions, such as covering a sneeze or cough, and frequent hand washing, can be very effective in prohibiting transmission of the virus, she said.
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