Doctors say get an early start on Flu season

Flu Shot

Flu season normally reaches its peak after Christmas, but flu cases have been showing up earlier in recent years. That means it’s time to check in with your doctor about flu-prevention strategies, including immunizations.

That’s the word from Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. Jackson recommended that people ages six months and older should get a flu shot, but said there’s special emphasis on anyone with underlying medical conditions and very young children.

“Every year, about a hundred children die,” she said. “It’s a preventable infection. In fact, if you asked me, ‘Of all the vaccines we have available, from which vaccine-preventable infection are you most likely to die?’ It’s flu.”

Jackson said even people who are healthy and don’t think they’ll get the flu should take all the anti-flu precautions to help protect their loved ones and coworkers.

She acknowledged that some parents don’t immunize children for religious reasons, while others are worried about potential health problems associated with some vaccines, although those risks are reported to be very small.

Jackson said flu is very unpredictable. This year so far, the strain that’s popped up is H3N2 – and the “2,” she said, is key.

“Now the important part of No. 2 is, how severe is the disease? H3N2 tends to be associated with more severe disease,” she said. “Now, is that going to be the strain that predominates during this season? We don’t know.”

She said parents should be aware that there is no anti-flu nasal spray option this year. A federal health committee decided that the nasal spray was less effective in protecting people in the past couple of flu seasons. More than 1 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed across the country. If you do opt for a flu shot, Jackson recommended getting it soon, rather than waiting until flu cases start to increase.