Don’t delay on flu vaccine

This year’s strain is hitting the young and healthy hard

Enloe Medical Center announced this week that the hospital is offering free flu vaccines to the public, by appointment, while supplies last. And with this week’s increase in reported influenza cases, risk of catching the illness is also on the rise.

We’d like to urge those who have not been vaccinated to take advantage of Enloe’s offer, or to seek out the vaccine at other locations. The Butte County Public Health Department is holding a free flu-vaccine clinic from 1:30-4 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in Oroville (202 Mira Loma Drive). Vaccines in shot and intranasal forms are available. Local pharmacies are offering the vaccine, too, though there is a fee.

This is a particularly deadly flu season in which young and healthy people are at increased risk. The predominant virus is the H1N1 virus, the same one that caused the 2009 pandemic.

Historically, elderly citizens and those with compromised immune systems have been the most vulnerable to severe flu symptoms. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year, because of H1N1, the majority of those hospitalized for influenza-like symptoms are people ages 18 to 64.

To date, 11 people within that age range in California have died from the flu. This includes Matthew Walker, a formerly healthy 23-year-old Santa Rosa resident who contracted H1N1 and, within days of showing symptoms, succumbed to the virus.

CDC officials note that the flu shot cannot cause the illness. The only side effects are tenderness, redness or swelling at the injection site, and—in rare cases—low-grade fever and aches.

California is one of the latest states to be hit hard by the outbreak, according to the CDC. Last week, regional outbreaks had been reported. This week, the activity is widespread. Still, health officials say it’s not too late to get protection via vaccination. Time is of the essence, however, since it takes about two weeks to gain full immunity. Do not delay.