So far, the 2022 flu season has been one of the worst in recent years, combined with the spread of RSV and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During National Influenza Vaccination Week (N.I.V.W.), public healthcare professionals, advocates and communities unite to promote flu vaccination.
With only about half of Americans getting the annual vaccination, N.I.V.W. is observed between December 6 and 12 to remind people to stay protected in the highest peak of flu season.
While some believe the flu is simply a “bad cold,” the virus can cause hospitalization with serious health complications, such as bacterial infections or pneumonia. If not treated at the right time, the flu can even be fatal.
Using data from early October 2021 to mid-June 2022, the CDC estimated that influenza virus infection resulted in 9 million symptomatic illnesses, 4 million medical visits, 100,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Older adults accounted for 83% of those deaths.
It takes two weeks following the vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against this virus infection. Professionals highly recommend receiving the vaccination, which protects for at least six months before influenza viruses start to spread in the community.
A 2018 study showed that among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59% less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients spent, on average, four fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.
“As we celebrate the holiday with family and friends, it is important to protect each other by decreasing the possibility of spreading the flu,” said Dr. Matthew Donahue, State Epidemiologist. “Influenza can be a life-threatening disease for some, as it can make anyone sick. The single best way to protect against the flu and its spread is to get vaccinated each year.”
The vaccination can still benefit those who have already been infected with the flu this year and help protect against other strains their weakened immune system may attract. Getting vaccinated may also protect others, including those more vulnerable to serious illness, like babies and young children, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions.
To find a site that offers flu vaccinations, go to https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/ and type in your zip code.
UNO students can schedule an appointment for a free flu shot by calling the UNO Health Center at 402-554-2374.