With ongoing 90-degree temperatures, getting a flu shot is likely not on the radar of Missourians right now. But a Southern California public health system reported a flu-associated death of a 4-year-old who had underlying health issues already last week. While seasonal flu viruses are detected year-round in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says flu activity typically begins to increase in October and peak between December and February. Activity can last as late as May.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications. The best way to prevent flu is an annual vaccination.
“While it is extremely important for every Missourian to get their flu shot, it is especially important that those in high-risk groups receive their vaccination,” said Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS Director. “And while we were encouraged last year by lower incidence rates of flu in Missouri, we cannot let down our guard and skip flu shots, or we may see increased rates of incidence and flu-related deaths in the state.”
The groups considered high-risk are:
- Adults 65 years and older,
- Pregnant women,
- Young children,
- Children with neurologic conditions,
- And individuals with these conditions: asthma, heart disease or stroke, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and/or cancer.
Missourians are encouraged to get their flu shot by the end of October, as it can take two weeks for an individual to be protected against the flu.
The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. According to the CDC, flu vaccination in the 2017-2018 flu season prevented an estimated 7 million illnesses and more than 100,000 influenza-related hospitalizations nationwide. During the 2018-2019 flu season, Missouri’s flu vaccination rate increased by 14 percent, more than 147,000 doses, from the season prior.