It’s flu season in Northwest Colorado and local providers are offering vaccination clinics | CraigDailyPress.com

It’s flu season in Northwest Colorado and local providers are offering vaccination clinics

The health of the entire community improves when more people receive vaccinations

— It's that time of year when the smell of pumpkin spice is in the air, and so are flu germs.

Flu is most prevalent from October to May each year in the U.S., as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means this is a great time of year to be vaccinated.

Flu kills

"Two years ago I was taking care of a pregnant patient who was in her early 30s who had not had a flu shot, she was in the ICU and had a pre-term delivery. A couple of weeks later she died of respiratory failure leaving behind a 2-year-old and infant for her husband to raise alone," said Megan Zimmerman, registered nurse and flight nurse for St. Mary's Medical Center in Grand Junction.

"Seasonal influenza epidemics in the United States are responsible for between 55,000 and 431,000 hospitalizations due to pneumonia and influenza each year and as many as 49,000 deaths", said Doctor Carla Rothaus in a blog for physicians on the New England Journal of Medicine website. "Influenza vaccines confer considerable but incomplete protection and are recommended for everyone."

Zimmerman, who lived in Craig for over 20 years and studied nursing at Colorado Northwestern Community Collage, is on the front lines for treating life-threatening cases of flu and urges everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Vaccines provide something called "herd immunity.”

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“The more people who get vaccinated the less people are at risk to contract it or spread it," she said.

Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible. However, getting vaccinated later is OK, advises the CDC.

"Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations," the CDC said.

Flu viruses are always changing, making flu shots generally about 50 to 60 percent effective, according to the CDC.

"It strikes, and it strikes hard. You have a far better chance with the shot than without the shot," Zimmerman said. "For 10 years straight I've been getting the flu shot and I’ve never gotten influenza, along with many of my friends who are also healthcare providers who also directly treat patients with influenza."

In addition to being vaccinated, there are everyday actions that can help prevent the flu.

"Hand washing is also critical," said Ann Irvin, a registered nurse who has worked as a public health nurse for Northwest Colorado Health for 31 years.

Changes for the 2016 to 2017 flu season

Since there are multiple viruses that change over time, vaccines and protocols are updated each year to afford the best protection from the virus and the CDC posts changes for the season on their website.

Due to concerns about the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine, "this season, only injectable flu vaccines (flu shots) should be used. Some flu shots protect against three flu viruses and some protect against four flu viruses," the CDC said.

Additionally, there are new vaccines on the market this season and the recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed, so the CDC recommends consulting with health care providers to decide on the best option.

Where to go to get a shot

Flu shots are available directly from many area pharmacies, through the Convenient Care Walk-in Clinic at The Memorial Hospital at Craig Medical Clinic located at 785 Russell St.

Northwest Colorado Health is also offering a number of flu clinics including "Say Boo to the Flu" happening from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Boys & Girls Club in Craig and 3 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 27 at the NCH Craig clinic, 745 Russell St.

This is a fun event to encourage families and kids to get their flu shots and as the result of a grant, each child vaccinated will receive a new book, said Tamera Manzanares, marketing coordinator for Northwest Colorado Health.

The complete Northwest Colorado Health flu clinic schedule is available at:

http://northwestcoloradohealth.org/what_we_do/public-health/immunizations/flu.html

"We are ready. We have all our vaccines and are offering clinics," Irvin said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.