County sees high demand for late-season flu shots

The Bartholomew County Health Department gave 45 flu shots this week in a late-season clinic organized the day a 7-year-old child diagnosed with Influenza B died in Columbus.

While demand for appointments Wednesday was in line with expectations, the available slots for immunizations filled up quickly, health department nurse Monica Jines said.

Scheduling the clinic was in part due to public concern over the investigation into an unidentified adult who may have died of the flu earlier this year, and the Feb. 1 death of Savanna Jessie, who was diagnosed with Influenza B, strep throat and scarlet fever the last week of January.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 48 out of 50 states, including Indiana, were reporting widespread flu activity with some cases leading to death.

Over the weekend, Kroger Marketplace in Columbus had a long line at its Little Clinic on Saturday afternoon near the pharmacy. Kroger is offering flu shots without appointment seven days a week, according to its website.

The CVS pharmacy reported it is seeing an increased demand for flu shots at its stores nationwide, said Amy Lanctot, a company spokeswoman.

While CVS is continuing to supply stores with existing inventory, the flu vaccine is out of stock in some individual pharmacies, she said. CVS is asking customers to call ahead before going to get a flu shot as inventory varies day to day.

Walgreens reported there had been an increased demand for flu shots in the Columbus area, said Allison Mack, company spokeswoman.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older.

Parents of young children particularly need to heed that recommendation, said Elizabeth Richards, Purdue University assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

“Children are better transmitters of influenza to others than adults. So to have decreased probability of being exposed to influenza in the community, it helps to have high rates of immunizations among children,” she said.

While federal officials have said this year’s vaccine isn’t very effective, and some people have said they aren’t going to bother getting immunized, Richards warned against that mindset.

“The most common vaccine protects against three different strains of the virus. Even if you do get influenza after being vaccinated, the vaccine can lessen the severity of the flu and protects you against some of the serious flu complications,” she said.

Influenza comes with symptoms including fever, congestion, muscle aches and fatigue, and severe cases can lead to pneumonia or other complications, Richards said. Those may include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) and multi-organ failure, she said.

A flu infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to a full-body infection, called sepsis, Richards said.

The Indiana Department of Health reported Jan. 27 that 136 people had died from the flu, compared to 10 at this time last year.

The state health department said the largest number of deaths this flu season had occurred in people 65 and older, at 102 out of 136 deaths. Three of the deaths this season were individuals age 5 to 24, the department reported on its website.

Last year at this time, seven of the 10 flu deaths had occurred in people 65 and older, and no deaths were reported in the age 5-24 age group, the health department reported.

Flu vaccine facts

The Indiana State Department of Health recommends that residents get a flu vaccine now if they haven’t received one already this season.

It’s best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community, according to the health department.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even later into the flu season, the agency recommends.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.