Residents urged to get flu shots

Jordan Beck | Daily Press OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group Infection Preventionist Nicole Pirlot, left, gives a flu shot to Business Development Specialist Amy Sundquist Wednesday. Pirlot said residents should prepare for the 2018-19 flu season in the coming weeks and months.

ESCANABA — While predictions for the 2018-19 flu season are still few and far between, OSF HealthCare St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group Infection Preventionist Nicole Pirlot said residents should prepare for this season in the coming weeks and months.

The 2017-18 flu season was a particularly severe one, Pirlot said.

“For 2017-2018, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] stated we did have a high-severity year for our influenza strain,” she said.

Locally, flu activity started earlier than normal during the previous flu season.

“We did see a big peak early, starting in December, of flu cases,” Pirlot said. Typically, the area’s flu season peaks in January and February.

Pirlot said she had not been able to find any 2018-19 flu season predictions from CDC yet.

“They haven’t predicted anything,” she said.

Currently, flu activity in the United States is low, as is typical for this time of year. However, Pirlot encouraged people in the area to start taking steps to lower their risk of getting the flu soon.

These steps include getting vaccinated. According to Pirlot, CDC has encouraged anyone who is six months or older and who have no contraindications to the flu vaccine to get vaccinated annually.

“They are recommending to get your flu vaccine by the end of October this year,” Pirlot said. She noted this provides better protection than getting vaccinated later, as it gives the body more time to build an immunity to the flu.

As of this week, people in the area have been able to get their flu shots for the 2018-19 flu season at OSF St. Francis.

“(Tuesday) was the first day we began offering them to our patients,” Pirlot said.

People will also be able to attend Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties’ annual community drive-thru flu shot clinic, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This clinic will be held in the Public Health parking lot at 2920 College Ave., Escanaba. There is a fee for a flu shot. Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Michigan Plan, and most other insurances can be billed. The high dose flu vaccine will be available for seniors 65 years of age and older.

Pirlot said there are additional steps people can take to lower their risk of catching or spreading the flu, as well. She said people should keep their hands clean, not touch their eyes, nose, and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people, stay home when sick, clean and disinfect items they regularly have contact with, and drink lots of healthy fluids, such as water.

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