It’s a hassle, but it’s for your health.
The flu season officially kicked off Sept. 29, with low levels of the virus across the state, according to the Florida Department of Health’s weekly Flu Review. The virus is expected to become more prevalent in coming weeks.
Health department officials are urging the public to get flu shots now, as the upcoming flu season is unpredictable.
“Annual vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza and its potentially severe complications,” said Julia Munroe, a respiratory disease epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health. “Now is the perfect (time) to get your flu shot.”
A respiratory infection can be caused by a variety of influenza viruses, spread primarily when those infected cough, sneeze or talk. People can also become infected, though less often, by touching a surface or object contaminated with the virus and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
Flu shots protect against three of the four influenza viruses research suggests will be most common, the Florida Health Department stated.
In seasons when the vaccine virus matched the strain, the vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with the flu by 40% to 60 %, according to the CDC.
And, no, the flu vaccine does not give you the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
“Approximately two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body,” said Florida Department of Health spokesperson Alberto Moscoso. “The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent infection, but everyone must be re-vaccinated each year due to the flu virus’s constant change.”
Some people, however, do report mild reactions such as soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also could occur, according to the CDC website.
Flu season typically starts in October, peaking between December and February. Activity of the virus, however, can last as late as May.
There were seven reported outbreaks of influenza and influenza-like illness from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5. None of these outbreaks have resulted in hospitalization or death.
Outbreaks were reported in Escambia, Wakulla, Lake, Polk, Martin and Palm Beach counties.
Meanwhile, Charlotte and Sarasota counties are reporting mild activity, and DeSoto reported no virus activity that week.
Charlotte County also reported decreasing activity, while Sarasota and DeSoto counties’ virus activity remained at a plateau.
Children, pregnant women and those above age 65 are at greater risk for severe complications from the flu.
To locate the closest place to get your flu shot, visit www.FloridaHealth.gov/FindAFluShot.