Protect yourself from influenza this holiday season

As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reminding Michigan residents it’s time to get that flu shot.

National Influenza Vaccination Week, which started Sunday and extends through Saturday, promotes awareness about the importance of the flu vaccine — and a reminder to get it done.

As families gather for the holidays, the risk of spreading flu increases. An annual flu vaccination offers the best protections if exposed.

While flu activity is still minimal, it is important for Michiganders to get their flu vaccine now as it takes about two weeks after the vaccine is administered before the body builds up enough immunity to prevent the flu.

“The flu isn’t on anyone’s holiday wish list,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive. “It is important to get vaccinated now to protect yourself and your family. The vaccine is your best defense against the flu and will help reduce the severity of symptoms if you catch the flu despite being vaccinated.”

Flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of the influenza virus and can result in mild to severe illness.

Despite the fact numerous influenza hospitalizations and deaths are reported each year, last year only 39.5 percent of Michiganders reported receiving a flu shot, below the national rate of 41.7 percent. Typically, those most severely affected by the flu are children younger than age 5, people with certain chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and those over 65 years old.

If you need to be scared into getting the shot, well, here you go:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was estimated to be the deadliest since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. More than 79,000 deaths were attributed to the flu, 185 of them children. Two of those children called Michigan home.

The 2018-2019 flu season is already underway and positive flu cases have been confirmed throughout the central, southeast and southwest regions of Michigan. In addition, influenza-like illnesses are being reported across the state.

The CDC recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for all individuals 6 months of age and older. Many flu vaccine options are available this year, and residents should speak with a health care provider about which one is best for them.

Flu vaccines are available at many locations throughout Michigan, including doctor’s offices, pharmacies and local health departments. To find a location near you, go to Flushot.healthmap.org.

Additionally, several programs have been set up across the state that will assist with the cost of the vaccine. The Vaccines for Children program provides flu vaccine for free to those who are uninsured. Contact the local health department to learn more about these programs.

Residents with questions about vaccines, including the flu vaccine, can go to IVaccinate.org. For more information about flu activity in Michigan, check Michigan.gov/flu.