Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season.

Health officials are stressing that getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu; many of whom are also at high risk for COVID-19 or serious outcomes.

“Bottom line, this may be the most critical year ever to make sure you get a flu shot,” stressed Dr. Steve Montgomery, of Pontotoc. “Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu.”

“The flu shot is not perfect, but it will help prevent some folks from catching the flu. And in a lot of cases it will help lessen the severity and duration of the illness. And you cannot catch the flu from taking the flu shot, it’s an inactivated vaccine."

In most years the outbreak of the flu in the Pontotoc County area is most severe during mid-December into March.

“But we recommend getting the shot as early as possible in October for two reasons,” Dr. Montgomery advised. “First, because it takes at least two weeks to develop immunity and if we have an early outbreak you're better protected. The shot should last the duration of the flu season.”

Dr. Montgomery said the flu is certainly going to compound the already serious health issues caused by the ongoing coronavirus.

“It’s certainly going to complicate the diagnostic aspect of determining a patient’s illness,” Montgomery said. “We will probably be swabbing for both the flu and the coronavirus. The symptoms for the flu and COVID are initially almost the same.”

“And when the weather turns cold it drives more people inside and we always see a spike in the flu. The continuation of the coronavirus and the onset of the flu season has the possibility of being overwhelming for some health care facilities.”

Dr. Montgomery said although the mandatory mask directive has been lifted by the governor, wearing a mask could be helpful in decreasing the spread of the flu.

“I’m optimistic that voluntarily wearing a mask would help decrease the spread of the flu and it certainly wouldn’t hurt."

The CDC published the following information and recommendations concerning the risks of influenza.

"It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu compared with young, healthy adults. This risk is due in part to changes in immune defenses with increasing age. While flu seasons vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. 

In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.

People with asthma are at high risk of developing serious flu complications, even if their asthma is mild or their symptoms are well-controlled by medication. People with asthma can develop swollen and sensitive airways, and flu can cause further inflammation of the airways and lungs.

Flu infections can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms. Flu also can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. In fact, adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with flu than people who do not have asthma. Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with flu and one of the more common medical conditions among hospitalized adults.

People who have asthma should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Talk to your health care provider to find out which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for you.

Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause death. You can get either pneumococcal vaccine (but not both) when you get a flu vaccine.

People with heart disease and those who have had a stroke are at higher risk for developing serious complications from flu. If you have heart disease, or have had a stroke, it is especially important that you get a flu vaccine every flu season to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications.

Among adults hospitalized with flu during recent flu seasons, heart disease was one of the most commonly-occurring chronic conditions—about half of adults hospitalized with flu that season had heart disease.

Studies have shown that flu illness is associated with an increase of heart attacks and stroke. A 2018 studyexternal iconfound that the risk of heart attack was 6 times higher within a week of confirmed flu infection.

People with diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational), even when well-managed, are at high risk of serious flu complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. In recent seasons, about 30 percent of adult flu hospitalizations reported to CDC have had diabetes.

Influenza (flu) is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum) more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization.

Flu also may be harmful for a pregnant woman’s developing baby. A common flu symptom is fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby. Getting vaccinated also can help protect a baby after birth from flu. (Mom passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.)

Getting an influenza (flu) vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. Pregnant women should get a flu shot and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Flu shots given during pregnancy help protect both the mother and her baby from flu. Vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to one-half.

A 2018 studyexternal icon showed that getting a flu shot reduced a pregnant woman’s risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent. Pregnant women who get a flu vaccine also are helping to protect their babies from flu illness for the first several months after their birth, when they are too young to get vaccinated.

Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu; thousands of children are hospitalized, and some children die from flu. Children commonly need medical care because of flu, especially children younger than 5 years old.

Complications from flu among children in this age group can include:

Pneumonia: an illness where the lungs get infected and inflamed

Dehydration: when a child’s body loses too much water and salts, often because fluid losses are greater than from fluid intake)

Worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma

Brain dysfunction such as encephalopathy

Sinus problems and ear infections

In rare cases, flu complications can lead to death.

Flu seasons vary in severity, however every year children are at risk

CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old have ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 in the United States.

While relatively rare, some children die from flu each year. Since 2004-2005, flu-related deaths in children reported to CDC during regular flu seasons have ranged from 37 to 188 deaths. (During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, 358 pediatric flu-related deaths were reported to CDC from April 2009 to September 2010.) It is noteworthy that among reported pediatric deaths, about 80% of those children were not fully vaccinated.

CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October.

Some children 6 months to 8 years old require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu. Children in this age group getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season—spaced at least 4 weeks apart. Your child’s health care provider can tell you if your child needs two doses.

If your child needs the two doses, begin the process early. This will ensure that your child is protected before flu starts circulating in your community.

Be sure to get your child a second dose if they need one. It usually takes about two weeks after the second dose for protection against flu to begin.

During the 2018–2019 season, 136 deaths in children with laboratory–confirmed influenza virus infection were reported in the United States8. However, influenza-associated pediatric deaths are likely under-reported as not all children whose death was related to an influenza virus infection may have been tested for influenza9,10.

By combining data on hospitalization rates, influenza testing practices, and the frequency of death in and out of the hospital from death certificates, we estimate that there were approximately 480 deaths associated with influenza in children during 2018–2019.

Our estimates of hospitalizations and mortality associated with the 2018–2019 influenza season continue to demonstrate how serious influenza virus infection can be. We estimate, overall, there were 490,600 hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 season. More than 46,000 hospitalizations occurred in children (aged

In the 0-4 year age group, the flu required an estimated 2,434,180 medical visits. Of those an estimated 25,328 were hospitalized and 266 deaths occurred.

In the 5-17 years age group, the flu required an estimated 3,984,921 medical visits. Of those an estimated 21,012 required hosspitaliztion and 211 deaths were reported.

In the 18-49 years age group, the flu required an estimated 4,407,885 medical visits. Of those an estimated 66,869 were hospitalized and an estimated 2,450 deaths occurred.

In the 50-64 years age group, the flu required an estimated 3,972,356 medical visits. Of those an estimated 97,967 were hospitalized and an estimated 5,676 deaths were reported.

In the 65+ years age group, the flu required an estimated 1,721,007 medical visits. Of those an estimated 279,384 required hospitilization and 25,555 deaths were reported."

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