Despite a mild flu season last year that set a record for the lowest and shortest peak for influenza-like illness, officials are urging residents to get flu shots this year.
The Center for Disease Control says it is difficult to predict how severe the flu season will be this year because the timing, severity and length of the epidemic depends on a variety of factors. Those include what influenza viruses are spreading, whether they match the viruses in the vaccine and how many people get the vaccine.
Because new viruses appear each year, Dr. Kevin Joseph, the medical director of St. Charles Community Health Center, said residents should get vaccinated this year even if they received a flu shot last year.
"The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change," he said.
This year’s vaccine will protect against the three flu viruses that experts predict to be the most common this year, including Influenza B, Influenza A (swine flu) and Influenza A (H3N2).
Flu season typically begins in October and can last through May. Some people, such as the elderly, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
People with flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away. Most experts believe flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
The St. Charles Community Health Center is currently offering flu shots for $15. Walgreens is offering the shots for $31.99 and CVS is offering flu shots for $29.99, though they say the shots are covered by most insurance plans.