ORLANDO, Fla. – As health officials see higher than average cases of the illness, the Florida surgeon general is encouraging all eligible residents to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.
The Florida Department of Health issued a notice Thursday reminding residents that getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid contracting the virus.
“Influenza is a contagious virus that can spread rapidly in our communities and cause severe illness resulting in hospitalization or death”, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid the flu; it reduces the spread of the virus and can also help make illnesses less severe for those who do still get sick.”
According to health department officials, there have been 6.4 million cases, more than 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 related deaths nationwide during the 2019-2020 flu season.
“It saves lives, it reduces the severity of the symptoms if you should get the flu,” said Dr. Ben Kaplan from Orlando Health.
He said he’s seeing more flu cases this season compared to last flu season.
“Since the new year started, there’s been a significant uptick in patients coming in with flu-like symptoms,” Kaplan said.
In Florida alone, four children have died as a result of the flu during the 2019-2020 season. A FDOH spokesperson said flu activity has increased as of week 52 in the season and levels are above those seen at this point in previous seasons.
“With this year’s flu season in full swing, it is critical that adults and children get the flu vaccine to protect against infection and help prevent the spread of seasonal flu to others," Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said. “By getting a flu shot now, you will protect yourself, as well as your family and friends.”
Herica Mierales said she’s taking no chances and plans to get her flu shot soon.
“I feel like every year it’s getting worse and worse and especially this year you’re hearing about a lot of deaths and a lot of people getting sick,” Mierales said.
Vaccines are offered at county health departments, school, pharmacies, clinics and more. To find out where you can get a flu vaccine, click here.
In addition to getting the vaccine, everyone should practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of illnesses.
Health officials offered these tips:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
- Sanitize frequently used surfaces in your home, school and at work.
- If you’re sick, stay home so you don’t spread the virus.