'Tis the season of giving, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials are asking that people keep the influenza virus to themselves this holiday season.
Having recently observed "Influenza Vaccination Week," the CDC is encouraging that everyone over 6 months of age get the vaccine to prevent the recent H1N1 and H3N1 strains of the virus before flu season is in full swing.
Local health officials agreed.
"Absolutely, the vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu," said Dr. Vibha Sharma, medical director of infection control and their infectious disease consultant. "It is not only important in protecting the person who gets it, but also it protects those around them, especially those who can't get the vaccine such as babies and others with compromised immune systems."
Sharma said that this flu season has not yet presented the major concerns of recent years, allowing more time for people to get vaccinated before any major outbreak could occur.
Officials say that despite the slow start, people should not be caught off-guard.
"People often shrug off concerns about the flu, yet every year it strikes up to 20 percent of Americans, sending more than 200,000 to the hospital and killing thousands," Dr. Thomas Slama, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and a clinical professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said in an IDSA news release.
For those a little scared of facing a big, bad needle at the doctor's office, there are alternatives.
There are several types of flu vaccination, including a new one called an intradermal shot, says a story by U.S. News and World Report. "It uses a tiny needle that's 90 percent smaller than that used for a regular flu shot. The vaccine is injected into the skin, not the muscle. There's also a nasal spray form of flu vaccination that's available for healthy children and adults aged 2 to 49. However, pregnant women can't use it."
Sharma said that those most at risk are the very young and the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems due to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a variety of other issues.
While there are no upcoming vaccination programs in Marlborough, communications director Melissa Hodgson said that the hospital is in the process of setting up a program to fully vaccinate their staff as part of an innitiative by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.