Three influenza-related deaths in Idaho had public health officials urging residents early this week to protect themselves against the flu.
With flu season off to an earlier start than in previous years, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says it’s more critical to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
“It takes about two weeks before peak antibody levels are reached and the vaccine’s protection is maximized,” said Dr. Kathryn Turner, PhD, Communicable Disease Prevention Bureau Chief at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “Unfortunately, only about a third of adults and 40 percent of children have received the flu vaccine so far this season. We’d really like to see an increase in vaccinations.”
Last year, Idahoans were near the bottom of the list for number of people vaccinated, the Central District Health Department (CDHD) reported, with only 34.3 percent of those recommended for flu vaccination actually receiving one. Nationwide, the average was 43 percent.
According to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, high-risk populations include infants, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, and people 65 and older.
Most people who get influenza recover after a few days, but it is possible to develop serious complications and die from the virus. Serious flu-related complications include bacterial pneumonia, which can also be prevented with a vaccine that can be administered with a flu shot.
All three victims who died in Idaho from flu-related causes recently were women over the age of 50, said information released by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare; one was from southeast Idaho while two others resided closer to home in the state’s southwest region.
“I believe they were in the Canyon/Owyhee area,” said Niki Forbing-Orr, public information officer at Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. “That is about as specific as I can be, for privacy reasons.”
The deaths are the first reported flu-related deaths in Idaho this year, reported, somewhat ironically, during National Influenza Vaccination Week, which falls December 2-8.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for everyone 6 months and older unless they have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or previously suffered a severe reaction to flu vaccine.
DON’T SPREAD IT
The influenza virus and other respiratory illnesses usually spread person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. People are urged to:
• Cover mouths and noses with a tissue when cough ing or sneezing to prevent infecting others.
• Avoid people who appear sick.
• Stay home from work when sick.
• Wash hands frequently, especially after being out in public. Avoid
touching eyes, noses and
mouths until hands are washed.
The Central District Health Department offers a flu vaccine for children from six months to 18 years of age, which can be obtained at the CDHD Immunization clinic, open Monday through Friday.
Call 327-7499 to make an appointment for a childrens’ flu vaccine.
Adults flu vaccine locations can be found at flushot.healthmap.org.
In Kuna, flu shots can be obtained at Walgreens, 869 E. Avalon St. Call the store at 319-0205.
Health officials recommend talking with your healthcare provider about what shots are right for you.