Will It Be An Early Flu Season in Massachusetts?
"Significant increases in flu activity in the United States have occurred in the last two weeks," reported the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on Dec. 3. Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases states, "Increasing flu activity should be a wake-up call. For anyone who has put off vaccination: It's time to get your flu vaccine now."
The CDC further reports that increases in flu activity indicate that we may see an early flu season this year. The current influenza data shows that the 5 states with the highest levels are in the south, but that influenza-like-illness (ILI) levels nationwide are already higher than all of last season. The majority of cases so far this season have been identified as the subtype A (H3N2) virus which has been associated with more severe illness and subsequent hospitalizations and deaths. Information on this year's influenza-related hospitalizations is pending, but 2 influenza-related pediatric deaths have already been reported.
The annual flu vaccine is comprised of the highest predicted two A-virus and one B-virus subtypes. The CDC states that, so far this season, 90% of the identified influenza viruses are well-matched to this year's vaccine strains.
Although all of the Westford Health Dept. sponsored public and school based clinics were completed in November, the Health Dept. will continue to vaccinate Westford residents, age 3 years and older, during limited scheduled office hours, while supplies last. The remaining Health Dept. flu vaccine supply includes the regular injectable form (licensed for ages 3 years and up), the FluMist nasal spray form (licensed for ages 2 through 49 years) and the High Dose Fluzone injectable form (licensed for ages 65 years and older).
"It's important to get vaccinated as soon as possible as it takes two to four weeks after the vaccination for your body to produce full immunity," states Sandy Collins, RN, Director of the Westford Health Dept., "Although we have immunized close to 2000 residents, we realize that, for one reason or another, some people who want a flu shot still have not gotten it, especially young adults who are away at college. That is why we are offering additional flu clinics by appointment. Residents who are homebound can call to have a public health nurse come out to vaccinate them during a home visit."
The following dates have been set up to accommodate those still needing vaccination. Clinics will be held at Town Hall on Dec. 21, Dec. 27, Jan. 4, Jan.10, and Jan.16 by appointment only.
To find out more influenza news and prevention information or to schedule an appointment, please call the Westford Health Dept. at 978-692-5509 or see our webpage at westfordma.gov/boh.