COLUMBUS — The weather has turned crisp and leaves are changing color.
In addition to being the time to get out sweaters and jackets, fall is also the season for flu shots.
This year the flu mist will not be available because of its low effectiveness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
East Central District Health Department Executive Director Rebecca Rayman said health professionals there have questioned the spray’s efficacy.
“A lot of time parents like (the spray) for their kids. We’ve discussed efficacy before because not all the kids breathe it in,” said Rayman, who added that children are often overwhelmed at the doctor’s office. “If you’re worried, your mind does not follow those directions like it’s supposed to.”
Dr. Daniel Rosenquist, medical director at Columbus Community Hospital Occupational Health Services, said that since the number of patients who opted for the spray was small, he doubts its discontinuation will negatively impact inoculation rates.
The majority of flu cases are not reported because, as Rayman said, if they were physicians would do nothing but report the illness during the height of flu season.
While the illness is unpleasant for everyone, immunization is particularly important for those who are elderly or very young.
The elderly, especially those with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and children ages 6 months to 3 or 4 years should get vaccinated. These groups are most likely to have a flu progress to pneumonia or more-serious conditions such as kidney problems, organ failure or death.
Since his patients tend to be older, Rosenquist said he sees a lot of cases where a case of the flu advances to pneumonia.
For the less-vulnerable populations, Rosenquist recommends getting a vaccination to increase herd immunity and avoid getting sick.
“It can be pretty severely debilitating,” he said. “Because of prolonged incapacity in terms of being able to work, function and having to rely on others for care.”
Side effects from flu vaccinations can include muscle soreness where the shot was administered, and flu-like symptoms Rosenquist said are not from the virus.
He said people with egg allergies may experience those symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “even vaccines that do have egg proteins can be given safely to most people with egg allergy without any problems.”
“If you or your child has had a reaction to eggs in the past, talk to your doctor before getting a flu vaccination,” the website states.
Rosenquist said during peak flu season around 15-20 percent of office visits are for flu-like symptoms. East Central District Health Department reported very mild flu seasons the past three years, with only 36 reported hospitalizations from October 2015 through May 2016.
However, Rayman said a low hospitalization rate is no reason to become complacent.
“Influenza is unpredictable,” she said. “Now is the time to get your influenza vaccine.”