Why it’s still not too late to get a flu shot

Feb 08, 2018

With as many as several weeks left in the flu season, doctors say it’s not too late to get your flu shot. 

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Salinas and other doctors and experts here and across the country say the flu vaccine remains the best form of defense against the flu. It’s his No. 1 tip for protecting you and your family from the flu. 

Go to HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find a location close to you for a flu shot. 

Due to the heavy flu season, vaccine providers have experienced vaccine shortages in some locations. Call and check with a vaccine provider location to ensure that the vaccine is available. 

Reed Olson, 8, gets a flu shot at a Dekalb County health center in Decatur, Ga., Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The U.S. government's latest flu report released on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, showed flu season continued to intensify the previous week, with high volumes of flu-related patient traffic in 42 states, up from 39 the week before. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Photo: David Goldman/AP

The flu season has been especially bad this season in Georgia and most the country. During the fourth week of the year which runs Jan. 21 through Jan. 27., there were 120 hospitalizations in metro Atlanta due to influenza, up from 115 hospitalizations during the previous week. 

There has also been a total of 51 confirmed influenza-related deaths in Georgia this flu season, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. That is up from a total of 25 from the previous week. The 51 people who died includes the following: one child; 7 people between the ages of 18 and 51; 7 people between the ages of 51 and 64 and 36 people over the age of 65.

It’s unclear whether the flu season has peaked in Georgia and elsewhere. The latest flu surveillance report for Georgia is scheduled to be released Friday. 

Here’s what you need to know about the flu shot and other tips for protecting yourself during this particularly bad flu season: 

This year’s flu vaccine may not be the best match but experts still strongly recommend getting a flu shot. Experts say even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, the vaccine can still help lessen the severity of the flu, and reduce the chance of experiencing severe complications from the flu. Getting a vaccine can also reduce the length of the flu if you do get sick.

It’s not too late to get your flu shot. While getting a vaccine earlier in the season is better, there is still a lot of the season to go and vaccination now could still provide some benefit. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

There are other steps you can to take to avoid getting and spreading the flu. Common sense flu prevention techniques really make a difference. Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water. (If water is not available, alcohol-based gels are the next best thing.) If you are sick, cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow or a tissue that is then discarded. Also, don’t go to work, and don’t have your children go to school, when sick. 

Nurse Kristy Haynes, right, shows resident nurse Brittany Evans around Carolinas MED-1, a mobile medical facility outside of the Marcus trauma and emergency room at Grady Memorial Hospital. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

What to do if you get the flu. If you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away, particularly if you or family members are at high risk for serious flu complications — young children (under the age of 5), those over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Even young, healthy adults should call their doctor if symptoms don’t improve or get worse after three to four days of illness. There are antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza that can reduce the duration of flu symptoms but the medication needs to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective.

MORE: Have the flu? Atlanta archbishop advises ill Catholics to skip Mass

MORE: 8 things you need to know about this year’s really bad flu season   

READ: The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse 

READ: Father of Coweta teen who died of flu asks, “Why?”

Click this link to check out the wait times: https://hospitals.myajc.com/