WVAC 911: Don't let the flu become a medical emergency

With cases of flu already being reported in Connecticut, flu vaccination time has quickly come. The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urge everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated.
According to the CDC, yearly flu vaccination should begin in September, or as soon as vaccine is available, and continue throughout the flu season, which can last as late as May. This is because the timing and duration of flu seasons vary. While flu season can begin as early as September, most of the time seasonal flu activity peaks in January, February or later.
The influenza vaccine composition for the 2015–16 season contains derivatives from an H1N1-like virus, an H3N2-like virus, and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on the vaccine. This represents changes in the influenza A (H3N2) virus and the influenza B virus as compared with the 2014–15 season. Information on the new recommendations for the 2015–16 season includes an updated algorithm for determining the appropriate number of doses for children aged 6 months through 8 years and recommendations for the use of live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) and inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) when either is available, including removal of the 2014–15 preferential recommendation for LAIV for healthy children aged 2 through 8 years. Please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/index.htm to see detailed information.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
“Even if you don’t think that the flu vaccine will do much or anything for you, do it for your family, your friends, your work colleagues, your neighbors, because it means that you will be less likely — actually, unlikely — to pass the influenza virus on to others and make them sick. So think of it as a gift to them, if not to yourself,” says Michael Carius MD, former chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Norwalk Hospital.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills.

  • Cough.

  • Sore throat.

  • Runny or stuffy nose.

  • Muscle or body aches.

  • Headaches.

  • Fatigue.

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Flu is unpredictable, and how severe it is can vary widely from one season to the next depending on many things. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease and persons who live in facilities like nursing homes.
Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
“I have admitted countless individuals to the hospital due to complications from the flu, some of whom could have avoided it altogether if they had gotten vaccinated” says Brian McGovern MD, an emergency department physician at Norwalk Hospital and a Wilton resident.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible each season.   Don’t wait — it’s never too late!
There are numerous places in Wilton to get vaccinated. For additional information, call the Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County Flu Infoline at 203-834-6341, ext. 444.

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Information: wiltonambulance.org, facebook.com/WiltonVolunteerAmbulanceCorps .