Flu bug bites hard, vaccinations run out
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
Flu season has struck hard this year, and those who put off getting a flu shot may be out of luck.
“We ran out about three to four weeks ago,” said Travis Johnson, community health director, who noted that the Family Medicine department at Henry County Health Center also ran out of vaccine around the same time.
“We’re getting several phone calls each day,” said Johnson, estimating the department has 10 to 20 calls each day asking where to get a flu shot.
Some of the commercial pharmacies in the area may have vaccine in stock, though Johnson noted that in many places the supply cannot keep up with the demand.
“We’re still looking for other outlets to get it,” said Johnson, who explained that the manufacturers are sending out everything they have and concentrating on the areas of the country that have been hit the hardest.
“We’re hearing that there may be more available in the next few weeks,” he continued.
Those who are looking to get a flu shot can visit www.flu.gov and type in their zip code to find locations near them where the vaccine is available.
“I don’t know how exactly up-to-date it is,” said Johnson. He said the last time he checked there were not any locations near Mt. Pleasant, though there may have been some in Burlington.
He advised anyone looking to get a flu shot to “stay on top of it” and keep checking for availability.
Reports of the flu have been increasing in the past couple of weeks, and Johnson said that although he did not have specific numbers, it appears that flu activity is triple what it is in a normal year.
“It is up (in Henry County), just like it is across the state of Iowa, just like it is across the country,” said Johnson.
Part of the reason may be because the season started earlier than normal.
“Nationwide it started two to three weeks early,” said Johnson.
This may have caught many people off guard, as traditionally doctors have advised patients to wait until October to get their flu shot so that the protection would last the entire flu season, which normally runs from October to May.
However, it has now been discovered that the vaccine provides protection for the whole year, so the public is advised to get their flu shot earlier rather than later.
Johnson noted that the Henry County Public Health department started its flu clinics in September, though many still waited until October or November to be vaccinated.
The first case of the flu in Henry County was reported in September, and Johnson said that both strains — Influenza A and Influenza B — have been found in the county.
“Influenza A is usually pretty predominate,” explained Johnson. “But we’re also seeing Influenza B, which shows how it is more widespread.”
There are not exact numbers available for Henry County, as not everybody who comes in complaining of flu-like symptoms is tested.
“We assume it’s the flu, whether we test it or not,” said Johnson. “It’s so widespread, we just can’t test everyone.”
Johnson advised that anyone feeling ill get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids, as this will help no matter what illness the person may have.
“There are other things going around,” said Johnson. “It’s not just the flu.”
Johnson also advised that anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms to stay home.
“If you’re starting to not feel good … be very cautious,” said Johnson. “Don’t go out unless you have to, stay away from people.”