What's new with the flu?

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by Patti Kirkpatrick

azfamily.com

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 10:45 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 1 at 11:00 PM

PHOENIX -- Have you gotten your flu shot yet? It's easier now than ever.

3TV sat down with Department of Health Services Director Will Humble for the lowdown on all things flu 2012.

Humble said the good news is the flu vaccine should match the strains that are expected to circulate.

“If you go get your flu shot, it should give you pretty much full protection from the viruses that were circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during the cold and flu season,” he said, adding the supply of vaccine is plentiful.

Brenda Nelson is married with grown children but just got a flu shot for the first time this year. In the past she worried, "You know, the rumors of 'you're going to get sick when you get it,' but my husband's gotten it the last couple of years and nothing's happened to him."

It's a concern the physician assistant who gave Nelson her flu shot hears all the time. Ginger Urban sees 25 to 30 people a day at The Little Clinic in the Fry's at 27th Avenue and Bell Road.

"The shot is a dead virus and you will not get the flu from the shot," she said.

What you will get these days is convenience. Last year, state legislators passed a law that allows pharmacists to administer flu and other vaccines.

"It just makes it a lot easier and the fact is most people want to get the vaccine, but it needs to be convenient because people have busy lives," Humble said.

The Little Clinic, located in a grocery store, is open evenings and weekends. Urban said it's easy for people to shop, then stop for a shot.

"It's right there, they're thinking about it, and so many people, even though they have primary care providers, will stop in and receive a flu shot from us," she said.

In the recent past, Humble said the Centers for Disease Control recommended only certain people -- like children and the elderly -- get a flu shot. Now, the CDC recommends everyone get immunized.

"Studies have shown that pretty much everybody benefits from the flu vaccine," he said, adding it helps contain the deadly influenza virus, along with health care costs.

It's especially important to get kids the yearly vaccine. "If we could vaccinate between 80 and 90 percent of the kids in Arizona, we would have a dramatic impact and reduction in flu circulation here," Humble said. "Kids are the incubators of the virus ... they're the petri dishes. They're the ones that are out there spreading the disease to people like me and my parents."

Influenza is especially dangerous to the most vulnerable among us: children with special needs, newborns, the elderly -- anyone with a compromised immune system. When more people are vaccinated, fewer of those who are immuno-suppressed -- for instance, anyone getting chemotherapy, a child with Down syndrome or an 80-year-old grandmother -- will get seriously ill.

Humble said the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect in January 2014, will help people who simply can't afford a flu shot to get one. The more vexing issue is the increasing number of high-income Arizonans who are deciding to send their children to school without vaccines of any kind.

"It's part of your social contract with your community to vaccinate your kids and yourself," Humble said. "It's the same reason why you don't drive drunk."

First-timer Nelson said she is now on board with that idea.

"I figure it's the right thing to do for my family and the fact that I work with the public so much," she said, adding the shot itself was "not bad at all. I'm glad I did it!"

Here's a link to a great series of reports on vaccines in Arizona: http://bit.ly/vaccineseries.

 

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