Winter is here, which means in addition to being peak season for snow and ice, it’s getting to be peak season for the flu. Despite the rapidly approaching flu season, the CDC still finds itself struggling to convince people to get their flu shot.
There are approximately 110 million visits to emergency rooms every year, and with flu season reaching its height, it’s possible that many people without vaccinations will be taking a trip to the ER this winter. Flu season has been off to a slow start, but that doesn’t mean getting vaccinated is no longer a necessity.
“The fact that flu activity hasn’t picked up dramatically yet means there is plenty of time for people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” explained Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with the CDC. She said that this year’s flu season is shaping up to be quite similar to last year’s.
Brammer added that if this flu season is like any of its recent predecessors, cases are likely to increase in the next few weeks, with the highest number coming in right around the first of the new year.
In a typical flu season, complications such as pneumonia and dehydration send upwards of 20,000 people to the hospital for emergency treatment. According to the CDC, death rates for the flu can range between 3,300 and 49,000 in a single year.
One of the major issues surrounding this flu season is that as of November, only two out of every five Americans received their flu shot. The CDC has reported that the rate is similar to last year’s around the end of November. The slow start to flu season may have lulled some into a false sense of security.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that while she’s glad families are taking advantage of the flu vaccination, coverage is still low enough to be a cause for concern. “We have a tool that is proven to prevent flu illness and hospitalization, but millions of people are not taking advantage of it,” she said.
Above all else, the CDC is urging parents to take their children in for flu shots.