The Tri-Cities could face a difficult flu season in the coming months, according to the Benton Franklin Health District.
He urges residents to get a flu shot now and plans a week-long flu shot clinic by appointment in the Tri-Cities.
Public health officials have two reasons for concern, said Heather Hill, infectious disease supervisor for the Benton Franklin Health District, speaking this week about the Kadlec on Call podcast.
American researchers look for countries in the southern hemisphere, including Australia, that experience fall and winter earlier than the United States.
Checking flu trends there for 2022 can predict what kind of season the United States might have.
“Looking at Australia, they had a pretty tough season,” Hill said.
Also, there hasn’t been as much influenza as usual in recent years in the United States. Practices used to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as avoiding crowds, also helped reduce the spread of the flu.
Exposure to the influenza virus and annual vaccinations help the body’s immune system remember the virus, he said.
But in the past two years, fewer people across the country have gotten a flu shot, he said.
Tri-Cities Flu Season
Flu season typically begins in the Tri-Cities in October, peaks from December through February, and tapers off in April, according to the Benton Franklin Health District.
Getting vaccinated now will prepare people for the upcoming holiday season, when friends and family gather.
Like many vaccines, it takes about two weeks after the flu shot is injected for it to be fully effective.
Health district experts say all Those older than 6 months should be vaccinated against the flu.but it is especially important for those in increased risk of severe cases of the flu and complications.
These include infants and children under 2 years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and other lung conditions.
The flu sends many Tri-Cities residents to the hospital each year and is “not to be taken lightly,” the health district said in an announcement for its flu vaccination clinic.
Symptoms include fever, dry cough, aches and feeling like “you got hit by a truck,” Hill said.
Tri-Cities Flu Shot Clinic
Immunizations are being offered by the health district October 17-21 from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Call 509-460-4200 to make an appointment in the Tri-Cities area to make sure the health district accept your health insurance. You must be at least 19 years old to get vaccinated at the health district clinic.
Both the high-dose shot given to people over 65 and the regular flu shot will be offered, in a form that even people with allergies to eggs can tolerate.
The Kennewick School District has also announced 24 walk-in flu clinics open to the community at various school buildings from Friday, October 14 through Friday, November 18.
Not only will they be offering flu shots to people ages 3 and older, including the high-dose vaccine for those 65 and older, but participants 18 and older can get their COVID booster shot at the same time. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Vaccines are free with most insurance plans.
For clinic locations and hours, go to ksd.org. For more information, call 509-222-6432.
Injections are also widely available at pharmacies and some clinics, but hospitals are still overwhelmed and over-capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and medical care was delayed during the worst of the pandemic, according to the health district.
Antiviral drugs for the flu.
Like all vaccines, the shots are not 100% effective, Hill said.
But if you’re vaccinated and still infected, you’re less likely to have serious illness that leads to hospitalization or death, he said.
There are antiviral medications available that can reduce the severity of the flu and shorten the illness by a day or two, but they must be taken early in the illness to be effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Don’t believe the myth that you can get the flu from a flu shot, public health officials say.
It’s scientifically impossible because the vaccine doesn’t include live virus, Hill said.
The vaccine may cause some mild side effects, such as soreness where the flu was given, low-grade fever, and headache for no more than a day or two.
But it’s much better to have mild side effects than risk getting the flu, Hill said.
You can also help prevent the spread of the flu by washing your hands often, not touching your face, covering your cough, and staying home when you’re sick.
This story was originally published October 13, 2022 5:00 a.m.