Local health officials advise residents to get flu vaccine

Warnings follow flu season with reported highest death rates in past decade

By KELSEY RETTKE

Oct. 27, 2018

DeKALB – Local officials are urging residents to get their flu shots, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting by the end of this month.

According to a new CDC report released Thursday, the highest rate of influenza-related deaths in a decade was reported in the 2017-18 flu season. There also was a drop in influenza vaccinations among adults in the 2017-18 flu season, according to the CDC. Although the severity of flu season can be unpredictable because flu viruses constantly are changing, the CDC reported that the flu vaccine is more readily available to people this year than ever before. The 2017-18 flu season was the worst reported flu season since the 2009 swine flu epidemic.

Lehan Drugs – a family-owned, multigenerational pharmacy opened in 1946, with locations at 1850 Gateway Drive, Sycamore; 1407 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb; and 811 S. Perryville Road, Rockford – typically sees 1,500 to 2,000 people come in for flu shots in October and November.

“Study after study confirms the need for vaccinations,” said Tim Lehan, pharmacist and third-generation owner at Lehan Drugs. “The possibility of a person getting the flu if they are not vaccinated increases significantly.”

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the flu season in Illinois typically begins in October and can last through May, with February as the peak month for flu activity, based on data gathered from 1982 to today.

The DeKalb County Health Department, 2550 N. Annie Glidden Road, started vaccinating the public Sept. 10, and has given about 1,300 adult and children flu vaccines so far, said Cindy Graves, director of community health and prevention with the DCHD.

“The response has been good this year, I think, because the number of cases last year was so high,” Graves said. “People are appreciating the value of the flu vaccine.”

Lehan addressed common concerns regarding the vaccine, saying “[The flu vaccine] does not cause the flu since the viruses in the vaccine are dead.”

In the process Lehan is referring to, strains of the flu are made inactive but still can produce an immune response.

After an announcement by the IDPH earlier this month about the spread of acute flaccid myelitis, and recent Daily Chronicle coverage of local infectionsconcerns have been raised by the public regarding AFM and a possible relation to the flu vaccine.

“The CDC is still researching the AFM virus and is interested in investigating all possible [causes],” Graves said. “However, at this point in time, there is no proven correlation between the flu vaccine or the influenza virus itself.”

Lehan said he and his pharmacists try to do their best to educate residents who come into Lehan Drugs regarding any concerns they may have.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination and said certain people are at a higher risk of contracting the flu, including pregnant women, children 5 years old and younger and people aged 65 and older.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a new fast-acting medication called Xofluza, which is the first and only existing single-dose drug for treating the flu. Currently, doctors only can administer Xofluza to individuals 12 and older; the drug works best when administered within 48 hours of experiencing symptoms.