Health Experts Remind Of The Importance Of Flu Shots

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The flu bug is already biting in Kansas, but it's not too late to get a shot of prevention.

December 2 thru 8 marks National Influenza Vaccination Week.

Health experts say influenza is nothing to sneeze at. Cotton-O'Neil Family Nurse Practitioner Jolea Matzke of The Clinic at Walmart in North Topeka says, with influenza, "everything hurts."

Matzke says people who get influenza can expect to be in bed for several days. She says people who have a chronic condition or are very young or very old are also at higher risk of hospitalization due to influenza or worse. Influenza was related to more than 1300 deaths in Kansas last flu season.

Those who still resist the vaccination because they believe they get the bug anyway should note that not all the viruses that make the rounds are influenza. Matzke says adults, on average, can expect to get four to six cold viruses a year. She says the difference with actual influenza is that it comes on quickly and causes much more severe symptoms. A cold virus, she says, will come on gradually over a couple days.

Unfortunately, in most cases, people must let influenza run its course. Matzke says the CDC recommends anti-viral medications only for those in high-risk populations. Everyone else, she says, should treat the symptoms with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications like Tylenol for the aches and pains.

Flu season usually doesn't peak until February, so health experts says now's the perfect time to get the shot.

For all the bugs going around, Matzke says there's one other thing people should do. Good handwashing habits, she says, can cut back on the number of viral infections by 50 percent.

Health care providers report no shortage of the flu vaccine this year. It's recommended for everyone over six months of age.