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Now is the optimum time to get a flu vaccine

Chattanooga Times Free Press - 10/16/2017

Oct. 16--A virus that hospitalizes some 200,000 Americans a year and kills at least 3,000 can be avoided or at least diminished with a shot.

Flu season starts just after Christmas and peaks around February and March, but the time to get a flu shot is now.

"October is the perfect time," says Dr. Alan von Gremp, an emergency medicine doctor with American Family Care clinics. "I always use Halloween as a reminder."

And people need the shot, not the nasal spray because it's not as effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The flu shot takes about two weeks to become effective, von Gremp says.

Doctors usually don't see a lot of flu cases in October and November, but in December the numbers increase.

Unlike a cold, flu symptoms usually come suddenly, according to the website webmd.com. And a fever that comes with the flu may not come with a cold.

Other symptoms include severe aches in muscles and joints, weakness or extreme fatigue, a headache, a dry cough, sore throat and runny nose.

Flu is in the Top 10 of all killers, von Gremp cautions.

When you talk about cancer, heart disease and accidents, flu is also up there, he says.

And the website livescience.com lists the influenza virus among the nine deadliest viruses on the planet.

The site states that up to 500,000 people worldwide die from the illness during a typical flu season, according to the World Health Organization.

Everyone who gets the flu isn't at risk for dying, but it attacks everyone, young and old, healthy and sick, says von Gremp.

Yet while adults make sure that their children got vaccinated, they often fail to get vaccinations themselves.

In the 2016-17 flu season, more than 75 percent of children got the vaccination, while less than 50 percent of adults did likewise.

Doctors advise the flu shot for adults and children at least six months old every year.

Ultimately doctors are trying to prevent the spread of infection, says Dr. Justin Ossman, a local family medicine physician at Erlanger hospital.

The World Health Organization meets twice a year and determines what influenza strain will be the most prevalent based on what they've seen in previous years.

"It's called herd immunity. So the more people who are vaccinated, ultimately the less likely you're going to spread any sort of illness or infection to other people," says Ossman.

A healthy body could heal itself of the virus, but the flu could also develop into pneumonia and other illnesses.

Patients already established at Erlanger can get a flu shot in less than 15 minutes.

They come in, roll up their sleeve and basically get the injection. We make sure that they don't have any allergic reactions or complications and they're on their way, says Ossman.

It may take a little longer than 15 minutes to be seen at American Family Care, but getting a flu shot could take less than 15 minutes when they see the doctor.

Contact Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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(c)2017 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Visit the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) at www.timesfreepress.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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