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County health departments recommend flu shots in October

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Crow Wing and Cass county health services recommend that all adults and children get flu shots in October to prevent unpleasant and potentially dangerous illness in January or February, when the number of flu cases spikes.

“Flu season typically starts around the first of October,” said Jeri Seegmiller, Cass County team lead, Prevention Services. “Sometimes we see a flu case pop up in mid-September, but typically fall — October — and then it runs until April, May. So through the winter months.”

“Now’s a really good time to get a flu shot. There’s vaccine available in the clinics in Crow Wing County, at pharmacies and at some of the grocery stores,” said Stephanie Kubas, public health nurse with Crow Wing County.

Seegmiller said this year’s flu season is expected to be mild, like last year. Even so, prevention is recommended because prediction is difficult.

“You can’t predict it from year to year. It’s too early to know what kind of flu season Minnesota will experience,” Kubas said.

Flu virus is often spread in public spaces where multiple people are coming into contact with the same surfaces. This includes grocery carts and door handles.

“It’s easily picked up anywhere,” Kubas said.

“It’s a contact virus, so you would pick it up from touching things or people that have the active disease,” Seegmiller said.

Prevention is elementary, or at least taught in elementary school. Washing your hands is the key, and covering your coughs and sneezes is not just good manners, but also an issue of sanitation. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of rest, healthy eating and exercise can also increase your resistance to the flu. Flu shots are still important, especially for those who are very young, elderly, immune compromised, or regularly in contact with anyone who is.

“If you have a new baby at home that’s too young to get a flu shot, the parents or caregivers should get the flu shot. For a person with a chronic health condition it’s always great if everyone around them would get flu shots in addition to that person,” Kubas said.

Kubas also said that minorities are encouraged to seek flu shots, “because they tend to show low vaccination rates.”

Contrary to popular belief, the flu shot is dead influenza virus and cannot get you sick. So if you get the flu immediately after a flu shot, chances are you were already infected and not showing symptoms.

“I believe they are effective. They say that the efficacy rate is 60 percent coverage,” Seegmiller said. “Personally, I’ve had the flu vaccine every year, and I’ve never had the flu. I think it’s pretty effective.”

“Anybody with a health condition would be a good candidate for a flu shot, and it’s recommended for anybody 6 months old and across the board,” Kubas said.

Kubas said that as of yet, the Minnesota Department of Health has not made any mention of flu shot vaccine shortages.

Most insurance companies will pay for flu shots, but for those that don’t there are other options. Your local county may offer special services to help you get a flu shot if your insurance won’t cover it, or even if you don’t have insurance. Costs can be as low as $5.

For Cass County residents, call 218-547-1340 for more information. Crow Wing County residents have some of the same options. For Crow Wing County residents, call 218-824-1098.