By MATT CRANE
With Mississippi seeing an increase of flu cases this holiday season, OCH Regional Medical Center officials encourage residents to take advantage of the flu shot.
OCH Director of Infection Control Kim Roberts said the hospital has seen a rise in flu cases this year.
“I think part of it is the holidays and people getting together whether it is traveling, going to ball games or Christmas shopping,” she said. “All of these times when people are mingling and in close contact with others increases the transmission of the infection.”
According the Associated Press, Centers for Disease Control officials have noted increased flu cases from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
Roberts said the severity of a particular flu season is contingent on several factors including how easily a certain strain of the virus is transmitted.
“Sometimes when people are sick, they’re still able to go out and do activities. That helps to spread it more because they are sick, but not enough to feel like they should stay at home,” she said. “They are getting out and spreading the virus by having contact with other people.”
Roberts said OCH participates in sending samples of the flu to the CDC for analysis in determining which strain of flu the community is facing.
“The strain we have detected is the H3N2 strain which is a seasonal strain, but it’s one we have seen before,” she said. “It is covered by the vaccine, so people getting vaccinated have a better chance of the shot working this year.”
While she notes the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, Roberts said the vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu as well as practicing good hygiene routines.
“People should be mindful of keeping their hands clean and being careful about touching the face, because if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, that is a way you can get infected,” she said. “If you’ve gone out in public and touch things a lot of people possibly left germs on, then you can pick it up and that is a way you can get infected.”
Roberts said those getting the flu shot should be mindful of a 10-14 day window in which the vaccine builds up the body’s immune system.
“When you get the vaccine, you’re not immediately protected,” she said. “It does take a little bit of time for the immune system to rev up and start building up protection.”
Dispelling a common myth that flu shots have led to patients developing the flu, Roberts said the injection-version of the vaccine does not contain any live virus.
“After the shot, what some people experience is low grade fever or muscle aches or feeling a little bit tired, an that is just their immune system responding to the vaccine,” she said. “Some mistake that for getting the flu after getting their shot, but it possible that people, at the time they get their shot, have already been exposed to the flu.”
Roberts said one of the main reasons people do not get the flu shot is because they have never had the flu before and believe it is unnecessary to undergo this preventative measure.
“Every year your body has changed because it’s older and your risk goes up every year,” she said. “The flu virus is constantly changing and it can change quicker that we can adapt to it because it is continually trying to evolve and evade modern medicine. We encourage people to get the shot or nasal spray and practice healthy habits to avoid getting sick this season.”