Get your shot: Influenza spreading fast in Washington

<i>DAMIAN MULINIX photo</i><br>Don Church of Long Beach received his shot last Wednesday from RN Cory McKeown at the county health department office.

LONG BEACH - With the flu season getting under way, many are taking advantage of flu shot clinics being offered around the Peninsula.

A clinic at the health department office in Long Beach last Wednesday served nearly 200 individuals, almost equal to the amount given at a clinic at the PACE Nutrition office in Ilwaco the week before. The health department will be hosting another flu shot clinic on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at their office at 7th St. So. and Oregon St. in Long Beach.

Ocean Beach Hospital is also hosting a flu shot clinic on Saturday, Nov. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon.

"Not to get the flu is the main thing," said RN Mary Goelz of the reason why people would want to get vaccinated.

Flu is hitting the state about two months earlier than usual. Washington is one of 22 states now listed as having "sporadic influenza activity." Snohomish County north of Seattle has been particularly hard hit.

Goelz said the vaccination is to fight the symptoms of respiratory flu, noting that there is no such thing as a stomach flu and the shot will not fight any illness related to stomach-related symptoms. She said that respiratory flu could lead to things like bronchitis and pneumonia. Goelz also dispelled the myth that when you get a flu shot, you get ill with the flu in return.

"It is a killed virus, so it can't give you the flu," she said. "Mostly soreness in arm [from the shot]. The first time you might be achy, but it won't give you the flu."

She said that it takes about two weeks to build the immunity to the virus after receiving the shot.

And if you're worried about being protected against this year's most prevalent strains of the flu, fear not, they have you covered. Each year the vaccine is formulated to protect against the three most prevalent strains of the influenza virus. Goelz said that tests have shown that the most prevalent strain this year is one covered by the vaccine.

Not all experts are in agreement, with some Washington flu cases involving a strain not included in the current vaccine. But there is a general consensus that the vaccine may confer some resistance even for this new strain.

It is recommended that people of any age receive a flu shot, especially if they are in contact with someone in poor health or just want to be sure of staying healthy throughout the winter months.

On Monday, the Atlanta-based federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention issued a report using statistics compiled for the week before last, the period of Nov. 2-8, or, as the CDC calls it, Week 45.

"The percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza increased from 7.9 percent during week 44 to 19.2 percent for week 45," the CDC said. "This is the earliest week that the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza has exceeded 10 percent nationally," the CDC said.

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