KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Osceola County Health Department on Friday offered free flu shots as the virus continues to run rampant across the United States.
The shots were offered on a first come, first served basis at the Osceola Council on Aging on Generation Point in Kissimmee until 4 p.m.
Health officials said 300 shots are available for anyone 18 or older.
The Department of Health released stats about the outbreak in Florida though last weekend.
- Flu activity increased sharply for the fourth week in a row and remained higher than any other recent flu season. In week 5, flu activity was above peak levels observed in past flu seasons.
- People at high-risk for complications from influenza infection, such as children, adults aged 65 years and older and pregnant women continued to be most impacted.
- No new influenza-associated pediatric deaths were confirmed. Five influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been confirmed in the 2017-18 influenza season.
- Overall, deaths due to pneumonia and influenza were higher than expected and are expected to increase over the coming weeks. Most deaths occurred in people aged 65 years and older. The majority of deaths in people aged 64 years and younger occurred in people with underlying health conditions (58%).
- Eighty-two outbreaks of influenza and ILI were reported: 37 with confirmation of influenza and 45 ILI. As of week 5 (ending February 3, 2018), 319 outbreaks of influenza and ILI have been reported since the start of the 2017-18 season.
Worst season in years
This year's flu season is rivaling the worst in recent years, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Overall, the data showed 17,024 new laboratory-confirmed cases of illness during the week ending January 27, bringing the season total to 126,117. These numbers do not include all the people who have had the flu, as many do not see a doctor when sick.
The CDC has received reports of antiviral drug shortages in some places, Schuchat said.
"However, the manufacturers say that there's product available. Pharmacists may want to increase supply on their shelves, and patients may have to call more than one pharmacy to fill their prescription."
US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in statement Thursday that some antivirals as well as flu tests are in short supply. "However, at this time, there is no nationwide shortage of these products," Gottlieb said.
Flu vaccines also have been reported in short supply, but they are still available, Gottlieb said. "I strongly encourage anyone who hasn't had a flu shot to get one and anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to promptly consult with their health care provider about appropriate treatment options."
How bad will the 2017-2018 flu season be?
Experts say that the severe flu season happening in Australia now, which begins in July, could be an indicator of what the U.S. will experience.
“There is every reason to expect that we could have a severe flu season this year,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, infectious diseases professor at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s always hard to predict what is going to happen, but people should be prepared.”
What's new this year?
The nasal spray vaccine should not be used during the 2017-2018 season, according to the CDC. People who normally get the nasal spray should get an injection.
When should I get the vaccine?
After getting the vaccine, it will take about two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body that will protect against the flu. It’s best to get the vaccine before it's already spreading. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting the vaccine by the end of October, or before flu season begins. Peak flu season usually ends by February.
Who should get vaccinated?
Anyone older than six months old can receive a flu shot. Children and older people are encouraged to get the shot in particular. Studies show that pregnant women who get vaccinated can reduce their baby’s risk of flu by 50 percent.
Infants younger than six months should not be vaccinated, but their family members can which will help prevent them from becoming sick.
The more people who get vaccinated, the lower the risk of catching influenza.
I got the vaccine last year. Do I need it again?
Yes. The body’s response to the flu vaccinations declines over time, and flu viruses are changing all the time. A new vaccine every year will be updated to handle the changing viruses.
Can I still get the flu if I’m vaccinated?
There is a possibility, but if you get the flu, the vaccine will help minimize some of the symptoms. According to the CDC, vaccines are effective in preventing flu-associated hospitalizations.
No vaccines are 100 percent effective, but the flu shot will prevent very severe complications from influenza, including pneumonia and death.
Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
No. The vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. Most people who are vaccinated have no reaction at all. About 25 percent of people who receive the shot experience some redness and swelling near the injection side. The risk of an allergic reaction is less than one in four million.