October brings the beginning of flu season. Last year, Sutton County saw high numbers of influenza-related school absenteeism, hospitalizations and deaths. Additionally, hospital and EMS systems were busy responding to the increased demand of patients seeking immediate care.

Now is the best time to get your flu shot, according to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October to help reduce the chances of the flu viruses spreading in the community. Typically, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. It’s important to note that the flu vaccine does not cause flu illnesses. The viruses in the flu shot are not live which means they cannot cause infection. It should also be noted that getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19.

It is safe to get a flu vaccine during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to the CDC. Influenza, flu, and COVID-19, coronavirus, are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Both can cause serious illness resulting in hospitalization and even death.

COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference. Therefore, testing may be the only way to confirm a diagnosis. It is also possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. The CDC says it is very likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading in the upcoming months.

The flu vaccine can reduce influenza illness, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to the flu. It can also prevent flu-related hospitalizations as well as death, especially in the elderly. People 65 years or older are also at higher risk of contracting the flu and developing serious complications due to the flu.

An annual flu vaccine is covered by Medicare, Part B.

Children younger than six months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Anyone who lives with or cares for an infant younger than six months of age should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu.

Children ages six months through 18 years can receive a seasonal flu vaccine. Children requiring two doses of the vaccine to be protected should begin vaccinations now. The doses must be given at least four weeks apart.

Studies also show that getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth for several months.

The CDC recommends that people who are at high risk for serious flu complications who get flu symptoms during flu season be treated with influenza antiviral drugs as quickly as possible. People who are not at high risk for serious flu complications may also be treated with influenza antiviral drugs, especially if treatment can begin within 48 hours.

In addition to getting vaccinated, residents are encouraged to follow three simple rules: wash hands, cover coughs, and stay home if sick. Those with fevers and cough should stay at home until they have been fever free (a temp less than 100.4 F) at least 24 hours without taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen before returning to work, school or daycare.

While it is not possible to predict what will happen in the fall and winter months, the CDC says getting a flu vaccine will protect individuals from contracting the virus as well as spreading the virus. For more information visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu.