Still haven’t gotten your flu shot? Consider National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 2 to Dec. 8, your final warning before the flu season really picks up here in Maryland.
While local health officials tend to circle the month of October and early November as the best time to get vaccinated, it’s still better to get the shot late than not at all. This is particularly true if you’re planning to spend a lot of time around friends and family, young and old, in the upcoming weeks for the holidays.
Gifts won’t be the only thing exchanged. With every hug and handshake, germs are being spread, the influenza virus among them.
Children and older adults, as well as individuals with weakened immune systems, are the most susceptible to the flu virus and are more likely to suffer complications from contracting flu, a serious respiratory illness. Children younger than 2, adults over the age of 50, and anyone with a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes, asthma or lung disease like COPD, are particularly susceptible.
Getting vaccinated can not just protect you from the flu, it can also help stop the virus from spreading through herd immunity.
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It typically takes about one to two weeks for the shot to take effect, so getting one now hopefully means you’ll be protected come Christmas and New Year’s, and before the flu season hits its peak around January or February. And because flu season lasts about 6 months, it will carry you well into the winter and spring flu seasons, which tend to be worse than the fall and early winter in Carroll County and across the state. Local health officials have noted that Maryland’s flu season sometimes stretches as deep into spring as mid-May.
Flu season, thus far, has been quite mild in Maryland, according to the latest data from the state's Department of Health. For the week ending Nov. 24, it reports that influenza-like illness intensity was minimal and there was sporadic geographic activity of the flu.
That will most definitely pick up soon, so if you haven’t yet received your flu shot, don’t wait any longer.
Unfortunately, the free flu vaccination clinics offered by the Carroll County Health Department concluded last month, but there are dozens of pharmacies and clinics in the county or nearby that offer no-appointment-necessary flu shots. The Health Department maintains a website with local resources on where to obtain a flu shot at cchd.maryland.gov/flu.
Even though you don’t need an appointment, it’s still not a bad idea to call ahead for a couple of reasons. One, you’ll want to make sure they still have the vaccine in stock, and you’ll also want to ask what types they offer — if possible, get the quadrivalent shot, which protects against four strains of the influenza virus rather than three. Secondly, make sure they’ll take your insurance.
Most pharmacies will not administer the flu shot to children younger than 9, so if they weren’t inoculated during one of the in-school clinics, you’ll need to check with your primary physician or your child’s pediatrician for a flu shot.
Regardless of whether you get the vaccine, it’s also a good reminder that you can stave off flu and other illnesses by washing your heads frequently, covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when sneezing or coughing, and keeping a distance from people if you think you’re becoming sick. Washing your hands with warm water and soap is the most effective way to keep from transmitting germs from one another, health officials say.