It’s not too late to get a flu shot — if you can find one.
After announcing they had a supply, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County experienced such an influx of people seeking a flu shot last week the agency ran out and will not be getting more vaccine this season.
A spot check on Tuesday, Jan. 22, showed there was vaccine available at Stop & Shop pharmacy in Wilton Center and Walgreens in Ridgefield, but none was available at the CVS in Wilton or Ridgefield.
Earlier this month — with 1,676 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza reported in the state as of Thursday, Jan. 10, 600 more than the entire number of cases reported last year — state and local health officials were encouraging people to get flu shots and take precautions.
Apparently people listened.
Dr. Patrick Broderick, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Danbury Hospital, said Fairfield and New Haven counties have had the highest number of reported cases thus far this year.
“Unlike the H1N1 virus we had a couple years ago, this does not seem to be particularly affecting any age group. H1N1 was found more in the pediatric population. It affected children much more. This is affecting the general population,” he said.
Children from 6 months to 18 years old, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, and people at least 50 years of age should get the flu vaccine. Also, people with chronic medical conditions and those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
“It’s not too late to vaccinate yourself,” said Dr. Broderick. “It does take two to four weeks to acquire some immunity, but the flu season will continue through February and March.”
“The majority of influenza viruses identified so far are A (H3N2) viruses, and this subtype is frequently associated with more severe influenza seasons. This year’s flu vaccine includes three different strains of the flu virus and is a good match to the strains circulating this year,” said William Gerrish, director of communications for the Connecticut Department of Public Health, in an email message to The Bulletin last week.
This flu virus has fevers over 101 degrees, chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, and overwhelming fatigue as the predominant symptoms. Antibiotics are not helpful, but there are anti-viral medications that may be prescribed within 48 hours of onset symptoms.
The best advice of health officials for those who do come down with the flu is to stay home, rest, take fluids, control the fever, and contact your primary care physician for further instructions.
Those who find they cannot get a flu shot now, or who choose not to, may find the following tips helpful in avoiding the flu:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
• Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
• Call your health care provider if you think you have the flu. Antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.
• Seek medical care immediately if you develop any of these symptoms: fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen if you are an adult; confusion or sudden dizziness.
• Use paper towels in the bathroom instead of hand towels, which can harbor germs.
• Pocket-size hand sanitizer, with aloe – helps keep skin germ-free without drying out.
• Always have your own pen handy. Pens shared in public areas carry germs.
• Use a disinfectant to spray doorknobs, handles, and light switches, etc., at least once a week. Viruses can live up to 48 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.
• Hand sanitizer wipes are handy to have and are more effective at killing virus germs than plain baby wipes.
The state public health department offers more information at ct.gov./dph.