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Flu season already?

By: Dr. Robert Oldham
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I know, it’s only October. But getting your flu shot early can help you avoid the fever, coughs, sneezes and aches down the line.

Here in Placer County, emergency room (ER) visits have been on the rise for flu or pneumonia, which is considered vaccine-preventable. The number of ER visits has more than doubled in the past few years, from just more than two visits for every 10,000 people to more than five in 2014. 

And flu is nothing to sniff at. We frequently see one or two people under the age of 65 die each year from flu or related complications.

The young and the elderly are particularly at risk for serious complications, along with pregnant women or people with chronic conditions.

Vaccines are widely available at local pharmacies, at your doctor’s office and more. Log on to vaccinefinder.org to find a spot near you. If you need help, give us a call at 530-889-7141.

It’s important to get vaccinated every year because flu strains change so rapidly. While this year’s vaccine may not be effective against every strain out there, it is developed to combat the most prevalent varieties.

Anyone 6-months-old or older can get a shot. And getting the shot as a pregnant woman offers your baby some protection. Even if you contract the flu after getting the vaccine, because the strains aren’t an exact match, you’ll often experience less severe symptoms. 

The 2014-15 flu season was the first time I was here in Placer County and I got my flu shot at a local pharmacy. We had maybe one case of flu reported by January, so when I woke up sneezing and coughing one morning, it didn’t even enter my mind that it could be the flu. 

As the day wore on, I felt worse and worse, hacking my way through meetings. It had been 15 or 20 years since I had the flu and I was in denial. Who, me? The health officer! Doctors can be the worst about working while sick. At that point, I hadn’t taken a sick day in years. 

Finally, that afternoon, I admitted defeat. I wiped down my entire office, went home and hoped that I hadn’t exposed too many people. Thankfully, because I had gotten the shot, the symptoms weren’t as severe as they could’ve been. 

So please learn from my experience: get your shot, and if you happen to be the unfortunate person who still manages to win the “flu lottery,” go home and take care of yourself! 

Be well, Placer!

 

Dr. Robert Oldham is Placer County’s public health officer. You can contact his office at 530-889-7141.