Local health officials say flu season has arrived and it’s not too early to consider getting the influenza vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control universally recommends anyone 6 months of age and over consider getting the vaccine. With the arrival of colder weather and closer contact, there is more opportunity to spread communicable diseases. Livingston County Medical Director Dr. Don Lawrenchuk says it’s definitely not too early to get a flu shot and advises people not wait until it’s too late, noting it takes about two weeks for the full benefits of the vaccine to kick in and become protected.

There have been no confirmed cases locally to date but Lawrenchuk tells WHMI it’s just a matter of time, as there have already been confirmed cases across the state and in neighboring Washtenaw County. He says flu season typically stretches from October through spring but last year was unusual in that there were confirmed cases reported well into May. He says with all of the international travel going on these days, people bring diseases back with them.

Lawrenchuk says the influenzas strains currently circulating throughout the state have been deemed a good match for the vaccine. It protects against two different types of influenza A, the more severe, and two types of influenza B strains. Lawrenchuk says it is a killed vaccine in the shot, so despite popular myth it can’t transmit the disease. He says what often happens is that someone is exposed to influenza and then gets the vaccine but because it hasn’t been two weeks, the person is not fully protected. The Livingston County Health Department hosts weekly flu shot clinics on Wednesdays but various local pharmacies and health care providers also administer the vaccine. Lawrenchuk says they don’t care where someone gets the vaccine, as long as they get it.

While some might not always take the risk of getting influenza seriously, Lawrenchuk says 80,000 people died as a result last year due to Influenza and complications. He says it is very preventable and the vaccine is the easiest and simplest way to avoid getting the virus. However, simple handwashing also goes a long way and can prevent over 90% of communicable diseases. (JM)