LUMBERTON — Health experts are advising people to get vaccinated against the flu, particularly those in at-risk groups.
“The flu season is with us again, and the best way to prevent getting the flu is to take the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Obiefuna Okoye, chairman of Infection Control at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. “Influenza virus causes disease in persons of all ages which can range from mild uncomplicated illness to very severe illness that could lead to death.”
The CDC says that people should get the flu vaccine as soon as possible to avoid early outbreaks of the virus. The most recent flu season was mild, and some experts worry that will mean some people not taking the vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the vaccine. But the CDC says doing so is especially important for those at risk of serious complications to get vaccinated, including children 6 months to 4 years old, people 50 years old and older, those with chronic illnesses, pregnant women, American Indians, health care personnel, and those who have regular contact with children under 5 years old.
“Regardless of vaccination, we strongly encourage everyone to take precautions and limit the spread of influenza by adopting an awareness of flu and its symptoms,” said Dr. Troy Sterk, a hospitalist at SRMC.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea, according the CDC’s website. The CDC recommends seeking emergency medical attention if a person has difficulty breathing, pain in the chest, dizziness, confusion or persistent vomiting.
The CDC estimates that about 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year for flu-related complications.
Beth Rowell, director of nursing at the Robeson County Health Department, said that most people do not get side effects from the vaccine.
“Usually those sicknesses that people associate with the flu vaccine are very mild and go away quickly but the flu is deadly,” Rowell said. “It’s better to be protected … than to be hospitalized.”
Flu vaccines are offered at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, and the Health Department.
Southeastern Mobile Medical will be offering vaccinations at the Robeson County Fair all of next week.
The Robeson County Health Department is offering vaccines Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
SRMC is offering vaccinations at The Clinic at Walmart, Southeastern Urgent Care Pembroke, Southeastern Urgent Care Lumberton and Southeastern Pharmacy Health Mall.